A young girl waits with her family for the train at Fuzhou Railway Station in Fujian province on Wednesday. The official Spring Festival travel season begins on Thursday. [Photo/Xinhua]
Road trips via long-distance buses have long been the major means of transportation for Chinese heading home for Spring Festival. This year, however, such trips are expected to decline for the first time as the country's high-speed rail network continues to expand and more people chose to drive home, authorities said.
About 2.98 billion trips are expected to be made during the 40-day Spring Festival travel rush, which starts on Thursday, Lian Weiliang, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, said in a news conference organized by State Council Information Office on Wednesday.
While trips done via all other public means are projected to increase, road trips on public vehicles will decline for the first time by 1.6 percent from 2017 to about 2.48 billion, which still is expected to account for 80 percent of the total trips this year.
Air travel shows the largest surge, 10 percent, and will likely reach 65 million. Train trips are likely to top 389 million, up 8.8 percent year-on-year, according to the commission.
The decline of bus trips is expected to occur thanks to the rapid development of high-speed rail and airline service. More people have changed to trains and planes to get home, according to a statement from the Ministry of Transport.
"The extension of China's expressways and the continued increase of using private cars has also greatly relieved public road transportation, as many have chosen to drive home and visit relatives and tourist attractions during the Spring Festival Holiday," the statement said.
According to the Ministry of Public Security, the number of cars in China reached 217 million by the end of last year.
"The country has seen the number of small vehicles on its expressways increase by 14 percent year-on-year last year. Similar growth is expected on the expressways across the country during the Spring Festival travel rush," it said.
Spring Festival, or Lunar New Year, falls on Feb 16 this year. The one-week Spring Festival Holiday starts on Feb 15.
Road transportation underwent "a year-on-year surge of 14 percent during last Spring Festival travel rush".
"We expect a further increase this year during the travel rush. The road networks around some major cities will be pressed, especially after Spring Festival," said Vice-Transport Minister Liu Xiaoming.
Data from Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing revealed that car-sharing services will be a hit during the Spring Festival travel rush.
A total of 33 million people will use ride-sharing services to get home this year, three times the total of the previous two years, according to the company.
Huang Jieli, head of carpooling services at Didi, said the company has seen a year-on-year increase of 10 percent for trips home using the company's car-sharing services.