China kicked off its annual Lunar New Year travel rush period on Thursday, with more than 3.62 billion trips expected to be made on roads, and via trains, planes and ships in the next 40 days.
The staggering figure of passengers is set to make Chunyun, which literally means Spring Festival transportation, the largest seasonal human migration on the globe.
Chinese authorities have taken contingencies to ensure a smooth beginning of the 40-day travel period around the Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on January 31 this year.
About 3.62 billion trips will be made across the country, including more than 258 million people who are expected to travel by rail.
On Thursday, signs about the holiday travel period could be seen in bus and train stations up and down the country, with more members of staff and volunteers on hand to maintain order.
Beijing railway authorities arranged 31 more passenger trains, with an estimated 620,000 passengers expected to depart the capital on Thursday.
A total of 124 fare gates were open to cut queuing times.
Large shelters have been built in front of Guangzhou Railway Station, a transportation hub in the populous Pearl River delta region. Under them, hundreds of passengers slowly streamed into the station under instruction.
With a large migrant population in the region, the railway station expected to handle 130,000 passengers on Thursday, according to Yi Jianbo, head of the Guangzhou Railway Station.
Newly opened high-speed rail lines will help tackle the travel rush in Guangzhou, including the world's longest linking Beijing and the Guangdong capital.
About 2.4 million passengers will travel on the Beijing-Guangzhou line, up 21.5 percent from the same period last year, according to Zhang Zhe, head of Guangzhou South Railway Station.
During the period, many Chinese will travel by road.
Officials and experts said the country's road transport network will be put under great pressure, especially with heavy smog which has frequently affected China this winter.
Cao Rongxiang, a Beijing-based researcher of climate policy, said smog and icy weather would pose challenges.
"Government departments should have emergency plans in place to deal with situations like road closures and accidents," said Cao.
A total of 860,000 coaches will be traveling on roads and 21,000 ships will be sailing, according to sources with the Ministry of Transport.
More than 400,000 flights will take people to destinations during the period.
Spring Festival is the most important holiday for the Chinese to travel for family reunion.
"There is nothing more joyful than going home to celebrate the new year with my family," college student Zhang Shuai said on Thursday while waiting for a home-bound train at Xining Railway Station in the capital city of northwest China's Qinghai Province.
(Xinhua News Agency January 16, 2014)