For many Chinese people, the excitement which accompanies the lead up to the annual Spring Festival holiday is often overshadowed by the hassle of buying train tickets. So far, there is little indication that this year will be any different, with many travelers once again bemoaning the inefficiency of the country's railroad system and the stress that comes with securing passage on the national rail system during the holiday.
The Ministry of Railways (MOR) has frequently attributed the travel difficulties that have become an unfortunate hallmark of the Spring Festival experience to a lack of capacity. Simply stated, the official story has long been that China's railway system just isn't equipped to cope with the throngs of passengers and holiday makers that hit the rails before, during and after the Chinese New Year.
No one will deny that China's urban centers continue to host ever-growing populations of migrants, most of whom want to return to their home towns for the holiday, but the capacity concerns mentioned by MOR officials just doesn't hold water when one considers how quickly the country's rail network has grown in recent years.
China's railways are expecting to see 225 million passenger trips during the 40 day "Spring Rush" period, which kicked off on January 26 this year, up 14.8 percent from the 196 million trips made during the same period in 2008, MOR data show.
Shortly after the peak travel period in 2008, the MOR quickly began expanding services on the domestic high-speed train network, which was supposed to take much of the strain off the national rail system during subsequent holidays.
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