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On February 1st the largest annual human migration on the planet began in China with the commencement of chunyun, the 40-day Spring Festival travel rush. Between February 1 and March 12, about 2.98 billion trips are expected to be made as hundreds of millions of Chinese cram onto trains, buses, airplanes and boats to return to their hometowns for Chinese New Year, or use the week-long holiday for travel.

Although long-distance buses remain the most common mode of transit for the majority of Chinese, with 8 out of 10 voyagers taking the bus home, this year such trips are expected to decline for the first time as China’s high-speed rail network advances its expansion and more people choose to drive home, along with rapid development of the country’s airline services. The development of China’s expressways and continued expanded use of private cars has markedly diminished public road transportation use during the Spring Festival Holiday period.

An additional 177 high-speed train services will be introduced into service to carry 100,000 more passengers each day during the travel rush, according to China Railway Corporation (CRC). By the end of last year, China’s railway network had over 78,900 miles of track, including 15,534 miles of high-speed railway. In 2017 1887 miles of new rail track were initiated into production. Beginning last year a few railway stations have inaugurated facial recognition technology to verify the identities of passengers in an attempt to simplify check-in and alleviate congestion.

Authorities at the Civil Aviation Administration have scheduled 30,000 more flights during the travel rush.

An upsurge in car-sharing services during this time is expected as well. Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing has seen a year-on-year increase of 10 per cent for trips home using the company’s car-sharing services. They project that a total of 33 million people will use ride-sharing services to get home this year, three times the total of the previous two years.

Approximately 2.98 billion trips during the 40 days will be a considerable test for China’s transportation departments.