Sat, Jan 03, 2009 - Page 5 News List

China’s Lunar New Year travel season off to early start

AFP , BEIJING

China’s massive Lunar New Year travel rush has begun early this year with hordes of migrant workers streaming out of cities where jobs have dried up because of a slowing economy, state media said yesterday.

The Lunar New Year for this year falls on Jan. 26, but the annual exodus is already under way in major cities, with many of China’s millions of migrant laborers heading home to an uncertain future, Xinhua news agency said.

The Beijing West Railway Station logged 130,000 departing passengers on Thursday, 38,000 more than the daily average, Xinhua quoted station authorities as saying.

It quoted officials who “cited the lack of big construction projects in the capital city as the reason for the increased seasonal travel,” although this year’s relatively early Lunar New Year holiday was also a factor.

Long queues also developed at railway hubs in the eastern commercial metropolis of Shanghai, with police dispatched to maintain order, it said.

State media said previously that a record 2.3 billion passenger trips were expected to be taken during the Lunar New Year period, the country’s most important holiday.

A record 188 million people will take to the nation’s rail system and another 24 million will take holiday-related flights this month and next month, the reports said, in what is the world’s biggest annual migration.

The impact of the global economic crisis was expected to boost this year’s travel rush.

The millions of workers who have migrated from poor and rural regions to the country’s cities and coastal manufacturing regions have played a vital role in China’s recent economic expansion.

But slowing overseas demand for Chinese products has already shuttered many factories and was expected to throw millions out of work.

The yearly exodus is marked by chaotic scenes as masses of Chinese desperate to return home overwhelm the nation’s transport grid.

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