Monday, January 12, 2009

The Great Migration

Thousands of people have already started making their way back home less than a month before Chinese New Year or Spring Festival begins on January 26.

And for those who are trying to plan getting home, it's become a logistical nightmare for the Ministry of Railways.

It expects a record 188 million people to travel by train, 8 percent more than last year.

On Saturday 4.5 million boarded trains, and around 4.7 million yesterday.

However the ministry surprisingly admits that it didn't expect so many people to travel so early.

Were rail officials sleeping on the job when it was reported that thousands of factories around the coastal areas went bust and hundreds of thousands of migrant workers came home early?

There are also those who are still employed, but because there isn't much work now, they get to have an extra long holiday. It doesn't sound like it's going to be a festive homecoming for them, with uncertainty over their next pay cheque.

Does this demonstrate officials' inability to sympathize or react quickly to situations and help people get to where they want to go?

Also related to the Spring Festival rush are the train tickets themselves.

Today at lunch my colleagues were discussing their inability to secure train tickets to get home.

One who lives in a town near Shanghai in Jiangsu Province, said the tickets were supposedly available for sale, but when she tried to get them, they were gone. She's not sure what "gone" means, if the tickets really aren't available for sale yet, or they have all been sold.

Others were discussing days, times and strategies to get tickets at certain locations around the city.

The problem is, train tickets can only be bought by physically standing in line. The majority of the people who ride the train are of a lower income bracket and thus the concept of buying a ticket online is unreal. Also China doesn't have the infrastructure to support online sales of tickets since it's still a cash-oriented society.

However this only opens up possibilities for schemers to print fake tickets or buy hordes of tickets through rail clerks they know and try to scalp them.

The country has to find another way of selling train tickets and also logistically catering to everyone's needs.

After all, doesn't the ministry, and all other government departments serve the people?

1 comment:

ks said...

the crux of the problem is china has too many people. great strides have been made the past few decades already. hope some day this annual rush be better managed.