Smoother fes­ti­val travel sign of ad­vanc­ing times

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

The travel rush at Spring Fes­ti­val al­ways makes head­lines be­cause it strikes a chord with al­most ev­ery­one in this coun­try. Go­ing back home ahead of the Chi­nese Lu­nar New Year’s Eve for a fam­ily re­union af­ter a year of work, no mat­ter how far one is away, is a duty in­grained in the minds of most Chi­nese peo­ple. Yet the jour­ney was for long strewn with dif­fi­cul­ties and hard­ships. Just a fewyears ago get­ting a ticket could be a headache for many, and long hours in an ill-ven­ti­lated, tightly packed train char­ac­ter­ized the jour­neys.

Given its pop­u­la­tion of more than 1.3 bil­lion, no won­der the Spring Rush is con­sid­ered the world’s largest mi­gra­tion of peo­ple. This year, a record 3 bil­lion trips are fore­cast to be made, by road, rail, wa­ter and by air, over a span of 40 days around the tra­di­tional fes­ti­val.

Ten years ago, a lit­tle more than half the num­ber of trips were recorded, yet they were ac­com­pa­nied by me­dia re­ports of stam­pedes, de­layed trains and pas­sen­gers that were stranded for days.

The lack of drama so far this year, with nearly 900 mil­lion trips al­ready made dur­ing the first 13 days of the travel rush pe­riod, un­der­scores the dra­matic changes that have taken place in China’s in­fra­struc­ture land­scape, es­pe­cially its high-speed rail­ways, which have been de­vel­oped from scratch to be­come the largest net­work in the world.

Last year, more than 3,000 kilo­me­ters of high-speed rail­ways were in­ter­wo­ven into a na­tional rail net­work, which now spans 124,000 kilo­me­ters, of which 22,000 kilo­me­ters are high-speed, 65 per­cent of the world’s to­tal.

For reg­u­lar trav­el­ers, the ben­e­fits are im­me­di­ate and pal­pa­ble. In a re­cent in­stance, the open­ing of a high-speed rail­way link­ing Guiyang and Kun­ming in De­cem­ber cuts travel time from Shang­hai in the east to Kun­ming in the south­west from nearly 40 hours to eight.

This is a rev­o­lu­tion, which though go­ing on qui­etly, is fast chang­ing our way of life in an ir­re­versible way.

It re­flects the rise in China’s over­all na­tional strength, as it up­grades its in­dus­trial struc­ture. The newele­ments that have emerged to fa­cil­i­tate the Spring Fes­ti­val trans­port rush— tick­et­selling apps, in­for­ma­tion-pro­vid­ing robots at sta­tions and fac­ere­cog­ni­tion check-in sys­tems, not only make trav­el­ing easy they also re­flect China is em­brac­ing the dig­i­tal era.

With a blue­print drafted to ex­pand China’s rail­ways to 200,000 kilo­me­ters by 2030, of which 70,000 will be high-speed, the jour­ney back home will surely be­come even smoother in the years to come.

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