BEIJING, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- He Kunlan was excited as he took a high-speed train Friday from the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming to Shanghai more than 2,000 kilometers away, a journey of around 12 hours.
"It was the first time that I had been on a high-speed train and I was too excited to sleep well last night," said the 58-year-old from Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture. "The journey starts in the morning and ends the same evening!"
Previously each trip took up to 40 hours. The bullet-train service, which was launched only a week ago, makes the journey much easier.
He was going to Shanghai to visit his son, daughter-in-law and new grandson during Spring Festival. From Friday, hundreds of millions of Chinese head home for lunar new year celebrations, the most important holiday in China. Some elderly people now move in the opposite direction to visit their children in cities.
The travel rush known as Chunyun is the world's biggest vacation. According to the Ministry of Transport, a record 2.98 billion trips will be made during the 40-day period, up 2.2 percent from last year.
Many people take the train home and high-speed trains have greatly alleviated the stress on both the transportation system and travellers alike. More than 65 percent of train trips this year will be high-speed.
China has built the world's largest high-speed rail network in just a decade, greatly shortening travel time for what were once gruelling cross-country trips.
The 22,000 kilometers of high-speed track are expected to reach 30,000 kilometers in 2020, linking more than 80 percent of China's big cities.
"The bullet train takes me back to Hunan in just a few hours, compared to 25 before,"said office worker Long Jue in Beijing.
"Previously, the trip home was an ordeal. If you even got on the train, the aisles, and even the toilets, were packed with passengers," said Long.
"The seats on high-speed trains are much more comfortable," said Zhang Miao, a college student in Xi'an. Zhang booked his ticket to Wuhan by mobile phone. "The booking process was quite easy," he said. Train tickets can be booked by phone or through websites and apps up to 30 days in advance. This has put an end to the typical sight of armies of migrant workers besieging ticketing halls seen in past Chunyuns.
"We needed to queue in long lines at railway stations for hours. The tickets often sold out one or two hours before we got to the front of the line," said Yang Guoquan, a migrant worker in Hangzhou.
As the sharing economy thrives, many travelers are using car-pooling services that allow them to take a ride in a private car traveling in the same direction. The service can take them straight home, avoiding public transport transfers.
China's largest online car-hailing company Didi Chuxing estimates that around 8.4 million people will make use of the service during Chunyun.
"Ride-sharing can the ease pressure on traditional means of transport," said Zhao Yan, deputy director of the Zhejiang provincial department of transport.