BEIJING, Dec. 15 (Xinhua) -- Railway ticket bookings began Thursday for the upcoming travel period around the Spring Festival, China's Lunar New, with around 356 million trips expected.
The annual travel rush, or "Chunyun", which is called the "world's largest migration," will last from Jan. 13 to Feb. 21, 2017. The number of trips is forecast to increase 9.7 percent year on year, according to China Railway Corporation (CRC).
The upcoming Spring Festival travel period starts 11 days earlier than the last one, and the 30-day online booking period is 30 days shorter than the previous year's.
The travel rush around the Spring Festival sees hundreds of millions of people head to their hometowns to meet relatives and old friends, putting huge stress on the transportation system. The upcoming Spring Festival falls on Jan. 28, 2017.
China's rapidly developing high-speed railway system has helped ease the holiday strain for travelers. The country boasts a high-speed rail network of more than 20,000 km, the world's largest.
Since the last "Chunyun" travel period in February, China has extended its rail network by 3,200 km, including a new high-speed railway linking the east China metropolis of Shanghai with Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, and another linking Nanning, capital of southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, with Kunming.
Railway authorities have prepared for the coming travel rush. Most ticket booking is done via the website 12306.com and the 119000 hotline.
The railway authority has 10,267 ticket booths, 11,233 ticket vending machines, and 15,443 ticket agencies around the country.
The railway department in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province, said automatic ticket vending machines are located in popular venues, such as railway terminals, universities, banks and fast-food restaurants.
In addition to booking, railway departments have also introduced new technology to assist with swift passenger check-in. Beijing Western Railway Station has added four self-service check-in lanes to automatically scan passengers' tickets, ID cards and take their photos for verification in 3-5 seconds.
Qinghai-Tibet Railway Co. on Thursday said that the world's highest and longest plateau railroad is expected to transport 1.3 million passengers during the travel period, up 4.8 percent year on year.
In Xining, capital of northwest China's Qinghai Province, ticket vending machines have been placed in banks for the first time this year.
Li Jia, a senior executive with the passenger transport department of Qinghai-Tibet Railway Co. said that this will help facilitate ticket booking and pickup. Police will reinforce patrols and fight ticket sale fraud and scalping.
Pei Jiyang, who has helped people book railway tickets over the past eight years, recommended online buyers stay calm, as railway authorities usually unveil changes to train schedules in January, often adding trips to popular destinations to cope with demand. He also suggested buyers try booking on the newly opened rail routes.