Carpooling services are becoming popular in China for people going home during the annual Spring Festival travel rush.More than 7,000 results were found for "Spring Festival" and "carpool" on 58.com, China's equivalent of Craigslist, where people are offering or looking for spare seats to get home instead of taking overcrowded public transportation.
Jiang Dan, a 30-year-old furniture designer in Beijing, offered two seats in his sport utility vehicle for a trip to his hometown Xi'an, Shaanxi province. On a classified advertising website, he was charging 300 yuan ($46) for each seat, while the cheapest ticket for a five-hour train trip from Beijing to Xi'an was more than 500 yuan.
"It is not about making money. Six hundred yuan is just enough to cover the gas," he said. "I am going home anyway, and it is less boring driving 10 hours with passengers."
He said safety is the major concern. Last year, he required passengers to show their identity cards before he carpooled home and kept in touch with his family in Xi'an during the trip.
The Ministry of Transport expects about 2.91 billion trips to be made during the upcoming peak travel period around the Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb 8.
That is up 3.6 percent year-on-year and is a record for the period.
More than 85 percent of trips are made via road, with 11 percent via the train system, according to the ministry. The average traveling distance is 410 kilometers, with about 75 percent of trips shorter than 500 km.
In November, ride-hailing app Didi launched a long-distance carpooling service that enables users to book seats 30 days in advance.
According to a report released on Wednesday by Didi, the company's carpooling service reduces the number of car trips every day in Chinese cities by more than 1 million.
"We encourage not-for-profit carpooling services during the holiday travel rush," said Wang Shuiping, a senior official at the Ministry of Transport. "Safe driving should always be a priority. Drivers and passengers should both make their rights and responsibilities clear and avoid conflict."
Wang said more safety precautions need to be taken during this year's travel rush as extreme cold weather is sweeping most areas of the country. The ministry has called a meeting on Tuesday to deal with the cold wave.
"To protect people on their way home, we have launched several initiatives, such as having extra equipment and people to remove the ice and snow on highways," he said.