“Desire to go home, difficult to get a ticket”, Chinese Spring Festival travel season

From Tianya:

The annual Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) travel season officially began on January 30. According to the information disclosed by the Ministry of Railways 2010 Spring Festival travel season is from January 30 to March 10, about 40 days, 15 days before the New Year, and 25 days after the New Year. According to an authoritative forecast, Spring Festival travel season this year expects 2.5 billion passengers.



“Desire to go home, difficult to get a ticket” 20100203-spring-festival-travel-01

At 3 pm on January 20, 2010, the Shanghai Railway Station already started to have presale tickets for the first day of the Spring Festival travel season January 30. Shanghai Station Norton Square opens 200 windows selling tickets at the same time.



January 20, 2010 afternoon, at the Ningbo International Convention and Exhibition Center, the temporary railway ticket booth, a migrant young man from Guangxi province named Liang Xiangui sleeps soundly on the railing of a long ticket line.



January 21, Passengers in Shenzhen North Railway Station to buy train tickets from the real-name system (a system first time used in China which requires passengers to give real name to purchase the train tickets and boarding the train with their IDs)



January 21, 2010, Mr. Liu from Fuyang bought a train ticket from the real-name system, because he used first generation ID card, the ticket shows his ID number but not his name.



January 21, at the Tianjin train station presale ticket booth, a student got her ticket to go home.



January 20, Chengdu train station,  a university student is saying hello to her friend.



1/21, passengers are getting ready to board the train at Shenyang North Station.



January 24, 2010 in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, the railway station reached peak Spring Festival season early, migrant workers from Gansu with children are waiting to return home.
In 2010 Spring Festival travel season, we hope to show more care to "children going home" this somewhat helpless groups. Spring Festival travel season, please let the children to go first.



1/20/2009, Dongguan train station, a little traveler is boarding.



January 21, 2010, on the second of Shanghai Spring Festival train ticket pre-sale,  a father with his daughter are dragging luggage and getting ready to board the train.



January 17, 2010, Shanghai South Railway Station Square, a child is playing.


January 26, 2010, Qingdao railway station where the passenger gathers, although the national Spring Festival travel season has not officially began yet, people have already stepped on the Spring Festival journey.



January 30 is the first day of Spring Festival travel season in 2010.
Staffs are checking passengers’ documents and tickets. On the first day of Spring Festival travel season, Guangzhou train with the pilot real-name system does not appear to have expected long lines.  Operation of the railway station is stable and smooth.



January 30, Anhui, Hefei railway station, the passengers are boarding the train.



January 30 is the first day of Spring Festival travel season  in 2010.
Zhengzhou Railway Bureau has developed several sets of the spring program in response to peak traffic periods before and after the festival.



January 30 is the first day of Spring Festival in 2010.
In Urumqi West Railway Station, passengers are prepared to board the train from the Urumqi to Chengdu.



January 30, passengers are waiting at the Beijing West Railway Station.


January 30, passengers at Wuchang Railway Station.



January 30 is the first day of Spring Festival travel season in 2010.
Harbin Railway Station smoothly handled over 70,000 passengers, an increase of about 2,000 people the previous day.



January 30 is the first day of Spring Festival travel season in 2010.
Nanjing Railway passenger traffic is surging, the station fully mobilizes all sectors into the spring transportation work. In 2010 Spring Festival period, the Nanjing Railway Station is expected to send more than 2.3 million passengers, an increase of 0.8%.



Open and in operation for at least one month, Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed EMUs from Wuhan to Guangzhou from the will in crease its number from 23 pairs to 29 pairs, in order to ease the the Spring Festival passenger flow.



January 30, a passenger is carrying a suitcase walking in the Guangzhou Railway Station Square.



January 30, Harbin Railway Station, a little passengers look out the window.


January 30, during the Spring Festival travel season, Nanning Railway Bureau, Nanning Railway Station is expected to send more than 930,000 passengers on their trips, on average 23,000 travelers a day and 43,000 on the peak day.



January 30, the first day of Spring Festival travel season in 2010, Chengdu Railway Police Department held a "Chengdu police are around you" event, warning the travelers to be on high alert for thief and fake tickets etc. in order to promote travel safety.

Chengdu Railway Police Department SWAT Team, patrolling with dogs



January 30, Anhui, Hefei railway station, the passengers are boarding.



January 30, in Beijing Liuliqiao long-distance  bus station, guide workers are distributing free napkins to the travelers.


January 30, in Beijing Liuliqiao long-distance bus station, passengers is boarding a bus to go to Zhangjiakou, Hebei.



January 30, in Beijing Liuliqiao long-distance bus station, passengers are boarding.


January 30 , the first day of Spring Festival travel season in 2010, Fuzhou Railway Station opens a total of 24 ticket windows, 10 automatic ticket vending machines, 40 ticket booth outside of the station, in addition, five new EMU ticket window and four telephone booking windows to facilitate travelers during the Spring Festival.



January 30, a little passenger at Bengbu train station looks out a windows on the train.



Bengbu railway policemen helps left-behind children in rural areas to reunite with their migrant worker parents who are unable to return home because of work.  providing green path-way for left-behind children to board them as soon as possible.



January 30, Nanjing Railway Station, travelers line up at the temporary ticketing booth.



North Square of Beijing West Railway Station



January 29, Shanghai Railway Station, the train passengers are waiting to take off.



January 29, Shanghai Railway Station, a passenger is smoking on the platform. According to the prediction of relevant departments in Shanghai, the peak will occur around February 10.



Early hours of January 30, passengers at Beijing West Railway Station are ready to board.  40-day Spring Festival travel season is expected to send 210 million passengers, an increase of 18.2 million passengers, an increase of 9.5%, 5.25 million passengers daily.


January 30, the nation’s first trip to implement real-name system,  #L7688 at 0:26 departs from the Guangzhou Railway Station.



January 30, passengers at the Hefei Railway Station.  Hefei station Spring Festival security work starts early, by deploying additional police force to crack down on ticket scalpers, maintaining order, and to ensure a smooth traveling.



January 30, 2010, a child let by his parents is going home from the Hefei Railway Station. 



Early hours of January 30, passengers are waiting in the Harbin railway station waiting room.



At 3 PM on January 20, 2010, Shanghai Railway Station North Square, 200 hypermarkets ticket window is  officially open for presale tickets of EMUs train as early as 21 days, other train tickets for 11 days. 20100203-spring-festival-travel-44

January 21, 2010, Shenzhen, people who buy ticket for others must bring ids and take care of the 100 yuan bills.



A little boy looks outside in the crowded train .



A small boy was elevated on the shoulders of their parents to avoid being injured.



A little girl is watched her father eating instant noodles, drooling.



A little kid is doing homework in the waiting room of the train station.



A mother drags her a spoiled child waling by the train.


passengers on a crowded  train are squeezed into the  the glass door.



January 29 afternoon, 2 PM, waiting in Guangzhou Pazhou at a off-site point of junction of Hunan Shaoyang,  travelers Tang Yuan (third left) who is the first to use the  real-name system for ticket validated.





January 28, before the ticket windows are open, the police came to photograph the people for records.  Recently, in order to prevent ticket brokers reselling tickets in short supply, the Shanghai Railway Police put a number of measures to restrict ticket selling.




January 30, the Guangzhou train started real-name system, passengers only need to scan ID cards and tickets in the verification device, a computer will be able to show the information.


January 30, Changsha railway station, big bags and small bags



Passengers are ready to board a train from Fuzhou to Chongqing.



January 30, Beijing West Railway Station Square, a Chinese migrant worker is carrying a huge bag to return home.



January 30, a youth in the Beijing Railway Station ticket hall, looking at the  ticket Bulletin Board.


January 30,  Hubei Yichang Railway Station, passengers on the train are having lunch.



January 30, several passengers are sleeping in Xi’an Railway Station waiting room.



The photo shows a man calls his girlfriend and reminds her to take care of  the luggage.



The photo shows the railway station in Shenyang City, Liaoning Province, passengers with luggage ready to take the train to return home, to celebrate the Year of the Tiger Chinese New Year.


January 30, Guiyang Railway Station


  1. I was busy in China, to catch a fast train
    I needed a ticket but forgot my real name
    I said 刘晓波, held there by force
    Next time in China, I’ll just stay on my horse

  2. Smooth and smooth. I know 3 people from my work already who stood in line the first day the ticketsales opened for their dep. date and none of them got tickets for the trains. Now they are forced to spend a considerable part of their Spring Festival bonus to buy plane tickets instead. Millions of stories like this around the country and hundred of thousands can’t even get home. The government it doing an ok job trying to better the situation but the glossy picture they try to send out isn’t the whole truth.

  3. As far as I read, in the real-name system, passengers are only required to show their IDs when entering waiting areas in a train station but not when they are boarding a train. and of cause real-name tickets can only prevent scalpers.

    The Chunyun, or Spring Festival transportation, is a fairly unique Chinese phenomenon. It happens in a country of homogeneous culture (everyone wants go home to meet family in the same holiday), huge population (hundreds of millions of people travel) and tremendous population mobility due to unbalance of development between areas (migrant workers from undeveloped areas go to work in developed areas thousands of miles away from home). A joke says that China is the nation best prepared for WWIII because the entire country gets hit by it every 12 months and Chunyun is just like a four-week national military exercise. China’s commanding, transportation, logistic and power systems are put to a brutal test in a degree not less severe than a strategic shift in a world war, especially under frantic weathers like that in 2008.

    1. Given the specific demograhics I cannot help but wonder wheher this is really a logistical nightmare or just something that has no priority with the authorities. For someone who is used to western standards it almost seems like an orchestrated congestion to obstruct freedom of movement. Scalpers prosper wherever there is scarcity, therefore scarsity is often artificially created and maintained. In my opinion public transport should be abundant and accesible at all times. Freedom of movement, mobility rights or the right to travel is a human rights concept which is respected in the constitutions of numerous states. It asserts that a citizen of a state, in which that citizen is present, generally has the right to travel to, reside in, and/or work in, any part of the state the citizen wishes without interference from the state. So far I have seen seen evidence of restrictive measures by that state. Are there any incentives to equalize supply and demand?

      1. @AlleyCat

        Your post sounds like a nice theory written in text books – works great if the society is ideal. All tickets, including seat tickets and standing tickets, will be sold out with or without scalpers and scalpers will only increase the cost for passengers, not creating new tickets. There’s a supply and demand imbalance but remember, 1) most of the rail lines are actually not that crowded in the rest 11 months in China. Giving everyone a seat in Chunyun probably means only half of these seats can be occupied in the rest time of the year. Is that a waste of money, especially when China is tight on budget in almost all other aspects of development? 2) Actually China is spending much more than any other country in building new rail ways and highways, and in a few years China will have the longest high-speed rail system than all the rest world combined. But the problem will not be solved in few years.

        And I don’t think it has anything to do with “freedom of movement” or “human rights”. The Chunyun is just like a traffic jam that pretty much exists in all big cities. Sure a city can double or triple the number (or width) of roads to solve the problem, but the residents may not be happy to spend big money on that when they have some other issues with higher priority, like education and medicare.

        Also, I think you don’t really understand “western standards” well either. Things are far less than perfect in the west and people have different problems to worry about. However, that’s another story.

        1. For what it’s worth, thanks for elaborating and taking the time to fill in some of the obvous gaps in my understanding. I have never been in China, but I have caught (and missed) more than a few trains in my life. My perspective concerning human rights may indeed sound a bit theoratical, perhaps even more so for someone who is used to most of these things existing only in theory. And perhaps I should have said ‘Dutch’ instead of ‘western’ standards. In terms of public transport and human rights we are far from perfect, it never is really. Still better we’re doing better than most, since we have to do with less space than most. The reason why I assumed there was an apparent correlation (between congestions and human rights) is the idea that the Chinese people are actually not free to reside or work where they want. I’ve heard many of them move to the bigger cities anyway, without any formal registration in order bypass the migration regulations. Therefore they are forced to travel a lot in order to reunite with their families. Therefore there is a structural temporary congestion. If this preconceived idea is false, I do apologize for my utter ignorance. Then I should not have spoken all. May I die with five strokes of thunderbolts if I ever do it again.

          1. Okey I understand better what you meant now. Yes the Hukou system in China is the thing to obstruct people from rural areas to live permanently in cities. However, I believe it doesn’t have much to do with the Spring Festival transportation. Even if migrant workers had a house permanently in cities, many of them would still go back to their rural homes in the festival to meet their greater families – parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. Many of people who took in Chunyun have spouse and children with them in cities, as you can see from some of the pictures. Take my parents for example, they left country side in their 20s and after graduated from colleges they settled in a city. However, only until my grand parents passed away, my parents and I have to go back to the village in the festival every year. I believe the problem of Chunyun can only be solved when China reaches a certain level of urbanization and the development of coastal and inland areas achieves a degree of balance. There’s still a long way to go and revoking Hukou system is not the solution.

  4. Awesome photos. I shudder every time I think back to my train trips in China. Hard seat Beijing to Guangzhou. Uhnnn. All the power to the Chinese people for getting home to their loved ones. Remember, no explosive devices on the trains…

  5. China’s commanding, transportation, logistic and power systems are put to a brutal test in a degree not less severe than a strategic shift in a world war, especially under frantic weathers like that in 2021..Car rental Chania

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