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Railways on Track for Record 130 Million Travellers

The Ministry of Railways is preparing to transport a record number of people during next year's Spring Festival to celebrate the lunar New Year.

About 130 million people are expected to travel by train for the festival, a traditional time for family reunions.

The number is about 3 million more than the same period last year, said ministry sources.

The lunar New Year falls on February 12 next year. The transport ministry has officially defined the 15 days before and 25 days after the lunar New Year as a travelling peak next year.

Liu Zhijun, vice-minister of railways, said his ministry would help transport students back home at an early date so the ministry could focus on carrying other passengers during the week before the festival.

Students are expected to return home at the start of the holidays in late January. This would cause less congestion during the most crowded week before the lunar New Year.

Liu said his ministry would put on additional passenger trains to some regions to meet demand.

But the ministry refused to say whether or not train ticket prices would increase between 30 and 40 percent during the peak period, as they did last spring.

Road-transport authorities are planning to hold public hearings over any proposed price changes but the rail sector may not do the same. The Ministry of Railways said higher ticket prices could compensate for increasing operating costs during the peak period and also lessen rail congestion by encouraging some people to travel by road.

A Beijing court ruled last month the increase in train ticket prices for this year's spring festival was in accordance with China's Price Law and related industry regulations.

In another development, the Ministry of Communications announced on Tuesday in Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, that China's total road mileage will reach 1.43 million kilometres by the end of the month.

Huang Zhendong, the minister of communications, told a working conference that his ministry had invested 260 billion yuan (US$31 billion) on road construction so far this year.

In the first 11 months of the year, 14.34 billion road journeys were made. In other words, each of China's 1.3 billion people made 11 journeys on average.

(China Daily December 19, 2001)

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