A child waves when the train departs from Shanghai to Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan Province on Thursday. (Wang Rongjiang/SHINE)
The first extra train, the No. 3216, left Shanghai at 1:03pm on Thursday, carrying 1,023 passengers going home for this year's Spring Festival. It is due to arrive at Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan Province at midnight on Friday.
The Spring Festival travel peak, or chunyun in Chinese, is often referred to as the world's largest migration and will last from February 1 to March 12.
Shanghai has a large population of workers from Sichuan and Chongqing which is why Shanghai Railway Administration launched the extra train ahead of the travel peak.
At Shanghai Railway Station, officer Liu Zhihui and several volunteers provided warm water and safety instructions to passengers. "We also help some old or disabled passengers carrying their luggage on the train," said Liu.
Zhuang Xinfu, a bricklayer from Nanchong in Sichuan arrived at the station around 11am on the day. His boss had bought him a train ticket online a month ago. "I bought a doll for my daughter," Zhuang said as he patted his stuffed huge woven bag. "Hopefully it won't be crushed by other stuff."
The extra train is an old-fashioned green train. The crew have taken measures to make the trip a comfortable one for passengers. In every carriage, there is a boiler to provide heat during the trip as the train doesn't have air-conditioning.
"The eight sleeping cars are all used as hard seat carriages so that each sleeping car can carry 22 more passengers," said Xu Wencai, head of the train crew. The four beds in each compartment remain but instead of having four passengers lying down, six passengers are seated.
The train crew also prepared stools for those who board the train halfway and don't have a seat ticket.
"Our priority is to make sure as many as possible passengers return home safely," said Xu. "We have prepared about 10 percent extra food on the train."
Xu said that if the train had to stop because of the forecast snowstorm, the train crew would make sure the heating and warm water supply was not disrupted.
Shanghai Railway Station is also prepared for heavy snow. "We mobilized a team with 26 people standing by around the clock to clear snow off the tracks," said the station's Hu Yihua. "Warm water will be provided in station halls and extra windows will be open to handle refunds if trains are canceled due to the weather."
From February 1 to February 15, 843 extra trains will depart from the three railway stations in Shanghai to take passengers to their homes throughout China.