China officially ushered in its largest annual population migration on Friday, 15 days ahead of the Spring Festival, or the Lunar New Year, with record-breaking journey numbers expected.
The travel rush, usually a period of high transportation demand as people return home for family reunions, will last from Jan. 26 to March 5 this year, while the Spring Festival, China's biggest festival, will fall on Feb. 10.
China's railway operator on Friday said the country's railways are expected to handle 480 million passengers during this travel season, with an average of 12 million trips daily, an increase of 37.9 percent compared with the previous year. About 10.6 million train trips are expected to be made on Friday, the first day of the travel rush.
The country's civil aviation sector plans to transport 2 million people and arrange 17,500 flights on Friday.
In terms of airports, based on today's operational conditions, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport, and Beijing Capital International Airport are expected to be the four airports with the largest traffic.
According to the country's transport ministry, an estimated 9 billion passenger trips are likely during the 2024 travel rush period.
Of the total, 7.2 billion trips, or about 80 percent, will be made by self-driving, while 1.8 billion trips will occur via railways, highways, waterways, and civil aviation, the ministry said.
The 40-day travel surge, also known as "chunyun," will see hundreds of millions of people return home and reunite with their friends and families.
This year's Lunar New Year runs from February 10 to 17, one day longer than in previous years. The extended holiday will put even more pressure on the nation's transport system, as unleashed pent-up demand for family reunions overlaps with surging travel demand.
Measures to brace the rush
Pledging to ensure safe and sound family reunions for Chinese people, the work team will step up efforts to enhance transport services, said Vice Minister of Transport Li Yang at a press conference earlier this month.
The monitoring of China's road network operations will be reinforced, traffic efficiency at toll stations will be improved, and the quality and capacities of service areas will be enhanced.
Services such as group ticket bookings and door-to-door ticket sales will be provided for migrant workers and student communities. Chartered buses and trains will also be provided where necessary, the vice minister said.
While many choose to return home for the Spring Festival holiday, a significant number of people opt instead to travel for leisure. Targeted transport capacities will be put in place to strengthen connectivity between tourism and transportation at key tourist attractions, Li said.
The work team will also promote joint operations between airlines, railway operators and coach enterprises to facilitate smooth and effective passenger transfers.
The Ministry of Public Security's traffic management bureau presented a plan on Monday for the travel rush surrounding the Spring Festival.
The plan urges local traffic management authorities to ensure safe and stable road traffic, creating a conducive environment for the public to celebrate the holiday happily and travel smoothly.
According to the ministry's analysis, there will be a record-high number of holiday travelers this year, with a notable increase in the proportion of trips made by road, especially for long-distance and cross-provincial journeys.
Local traffic management authorities will make every effort to implement necessary measures, defuse potential risks, ensure safe and unimpeded traffic flows, and prevent chain-reaction collisions and large-scale accidents, as outlined in the plan.