Chunyun: The biggest human migration in the world

Updated 2018-02-01 15:42:01

Passengers check in at Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, Feb 1, 2018. The 2018 Spring Festival travel rush, known as the chunyun, started on Thursday and will last till March 12. About 2.98 billion trips are expected to be made during the chunyun. The Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year, falls on Feb 16 this year.

For Spring Festival-Chinese New Year-nothing's more important than spending time with family. This means millions of city-dwellers getting on trains, boats, and planes to go home, and this migration can be a spectacular sight.

For Yang Bin, the job of checking passengers' tickets alongside their IDs leaves little room for error. More than 2,000 tickets go through his hands every day.

"It's the time of year we'll see a big crowd of passengers at the station. Our responsibility as station staff is to ensure the safety of each traveler," Yang said.

Getting a seat is a competitive affair. Some people wait in line for days and, even online, tickets sell out fast.

Every Spring Festival season, millions of people travel a combined 1.2 billion kilometers on trains, cars and buses, and planes. That's the distance from the Earth to Saturn.

The biggest chunks of outbound trips come from Guangdong, Shanghai and Beijing. And the major destinations are the provinces of Hunan, Hubei and Henan. When the Spring Festival celebration is over, the flow is reversed.

Fast developing infrastructure has made this homeward march much quicker for many. The total length of China's high-speed railway is 25 thousand kilometers. That's more than 60 percent of the global total. China's first self-developed "Fuxing" bullet train boasts a consistent speed of 350 kilometers per hour.

Every year, nearly 400 million trips are accomplished by train during the new year migration season... That means more than 100 passengers hop onto trains every second. And that lasts for 40 days, non-stop. Speed requires precision. For station staff like Yang Bin, it is a race against time to get everyone on board.

"I'm doing an ordinary job, but its not an easy one. We treat every passenger as a member of our family," said Yang.

Yang Bin sees stories of individuals eager for reunions with loved ones. He is one of those who has to be busy so that others can go on holiday.

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