Battle to secure train tickets home for Chinese New Year

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Media captionQueuing vs internet: A tale of two travellers

Jia Wubin is currently enjoying quality time with his son, 19, and father, 70. For this to happen, he travelled 17 hours on the train before he finally made it to his home in Shanxi province.

This is the third year the 43-year-old construction worker made the long journey home from Beijing ahead of the Chinese New Year at the end of January.

For many people in China, travelling home for the Chinese New Year is a bittersweet experience.

It is estimated that there will be 3.6 billion trips made by Chinese migrants during this year's Chinese New Year holiday period. Some media call it "the world's largest human migration".

Image caption Jia Wubin waited for hours to buy a standing ticket to get home for the Chinese New Year

'Too exhausted'

Most Chinese prefer to travel by railway. But because of the country's limited transport capacity and the immense number of people travelling, buying a train ticket in China these days is like fighting a war.

After waiting for hours at a train station ticket booth, Jia Wubin still couldn't get a ticket with seating. So he had to stand for 17 hours on the train.

"There was even nowhere to stand in the carriage. So I was standing in the toilet," said Mr Jia. "I didn't have the chance to sleep at all."

But he said it was all worth it. "It is the family reunion time, I have to go home, no matter how difficult is it," he said.

Zhang Dan shares the same sentiment. She said all she wanted after a year of working in another city was "to go home, see my parents and eat my mum's home-cooked meal".

Ms Zhang, 24, said she arrived home on Sunday after spending eight hours on a long-distance bus.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption It is estimated that 3.6 billion trips will be made by Chinese migrants this year

"I was too exhausted so I spent the entire day sleeping after I got home," she said.

Compared to the older generation, Ms Zhang knows how to use the internet - an advantage, especially after China's former Railway Ministry, now the China Railway Corporation, launched the online ticket booking system in 2011.

In theory, buying train tickets online was supposed to be a lot easier than the traditional way of queuing for a ticket.

However, Ms Zhang didn't manage to buy a ticket online this year.

"It is a brutal experience. There are just too many people fighting online for train tickets at the same time," said Ms Zhang. "All tickets will be gone within a minute or so."

In fact, the official train ticket booking website has crashed a few times in past years due to too much traffic.

"I wonder how many years will we have to wait before everyone in China can travel home comfortably for the Chinese New Year," Ms Zhang said.

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