While postgraduate student Chen Junjie looks forward to the approaching winter vacation, he worries how he will get his hands on a train ticket home.
For Chen and thousands of other college students studying away from home, going home is a heartwarming yet tough experience, especially this year as winter vacation overlaps with the Spring Festival travel rush, the biggest annual human immigration on earth.
The rush home is most intense from Jan. 16 to 24, when people head for New Year family reunions around Jan. 31; hectic days indeed on the public transportation system.
About 3.62 billion trips will be made across China during the 40 days around lunar New Year. Over quarter of a billion people will travel by rail during the period so tickets are an extremely scarce commodity.
"It's really hard to buy a train ticket.Last year, I sat in front of the computer for hours but still failed. On the train booking websites they were snapped up in a wink." Chen said. He finally got the ticket he needed, but for several days after the school was out.
Chen, who studies at Tsinghua University, comes from Guangzhou, the capital of south China's Guangdong Province, and more than 1,200 kilometers from Beijing. A flight costs 1,500 yuan (about 250 U.S. dollars), which neither Chen nor most other students can afford.
Things may be different this year with the government trying to make it easier for students. The railways have provided more channels for students to purchase train tickets, including windows exclusively for them at various stations. Colleges and universities are helping students buy tickets in groups.
Railway authorities in big cities like Beijing, Guangzhou and Tianjin, have installed ticket vending machines on some campus where students can buy tickets or pick up those they booked online.
Construction of more railways, especially the high-speed rails, is one way to relieve the transport pressure. China Railway Corp. announced last week an investment of 630 billion yuan in 2014 for 6,600 kilometers of new tracks.
At the moment China has more than 100,000 km of track, of which about 12,000 km is high speed, or more than half of the world total,including the world's longest high speed line between Beijing and Guangzhou.