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China enacts measures to ensure safety as annual travel rush begins

From : Xinhua

A volunteer guides passengers to their train at Chengdu Railway Station in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, Jan. 7, 2012. Starting from Jan. 8, 2012, China's transport system will undergo a 40-day travel rush, which is characterized by a hightened passenger flow around the time of the oncoming Chinese New Year. (Xinhua/Xue Yubin)

BEIJING, Jan. 8, 2012 -- China's central authorities have highlighted travel safety as the nation on Sunday officially kicked off the world's largest holiday migration, a time in which mass numbers of passengers will be homeward bound for the traditional Chinese Spring Festival.

Safe travel has emerged as a hot-button issue facing the government as passenger trips during the 40-day travel peak are expected to hit a record high of over 3 billion.

Liu Tienan, vice chief of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planner, told the press on Sunday that passenger transport during the period is not looking good as the enormous migration outweighs existing transportation capacities.

Liu warned of the likelihood of heavy snow and icy rain that could hamper travel while vowing greater efforts to avoid another travel disaster, as was seen in early 2008 when unprecedented heavy snow and freezing rain inundated the south of the country, bringing traffic to a standstill during the peak holiday season.

A total of 3.16 billion passenger trips are expected during the next 40 days, up 9.1 percent from a year earlier, of which, 235 million trips will be made via the country's railways, up 6.1 percent year-on-year.

Hu Yadong, vice minister of railways, said a daily average of 5.88 million people will make train trips during the period, 340,000 more than the corresponding period in 2011.

At the Beijing Railway Station on Sunday, staff members checked passengers' train tickets and ID cards, as an ID-based train ticket purchasing system kicked off nationwide at the start of the new year in an effort to curb ticket scalping.