World's largest annual human migration now underway in China

Close to 3 billion trips expected by March 1

By KARLA CRIPPS AND SERENITIE WANG, CNN
Tao Zhang/Getty Images

 A symphony orchestra performs to celebrate the beginning of the Spring Festival travel rush at Harbin Railway Station on Jan. 21, 2019, in Harbin, China. About 2.99 billion trips are expected to be made during the travel rush between Jan. 21…

(CNN) - Heading to China to usher in the Year of the Pig? Brace yourself, because things are about to get wild.

The country's annual Spring Festival rush -- the biggest human migration on the planet -- is now officially underway and set to be bigger than ever, with close to 3 billion trips expected to be made between January 21 and March 1.

Called "Chunyun," it's the 40-day period when Chinese people head home to celebrate the Lunar New Year Spring Festival with their families.

This year, Lunar New Year falls on February 5.

China's Ministry of Transport recently held a press conference to outline some of the impressive stats behind this year's LNY rush.

According to Lian Weiliang, deputy director of National Development and Reform Commission, 2.99 billion trips will be made over the Chunyun period -- up 0.6% over 2018.

Of those, 2.46 billion trips will be made by automobile, 413 million by rail -- a rise of 8.3% -- and 73 million by air.

In any other nation, this many travelers would grind local infrastructure to a halt.

But China is unlike any other nation and well-equipped to handle the masses.

High-tech ticketing, Increased flights

State-run media Xinhua reports that China -- already possessing the world's longest rail network -- launched 10 new railways at the end of 2018 to deal with this year's Chunyun rush. These additions expanded its operational length of high-speed railways to 29,000 kilometers.

Meanwhile, Lian told media 4,787 pairs of train services will operate before the Lunar New Year holiday and 4,860 after. Of these, 3,353 (before) and 3,383 (after) are high-speed trains.

New technologies have been brought in to ease congestion at train stations as well, including facial recognition software and ticketless travel.

To accommodate air travelers, 532,000 flights will take to the skies -- an increase of 10% over last year. The country's 10 major airports, including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Kunming, will operate 24-hours.

The country's highways are ready to deal with the inevitable traffic mayhem as well.

Liu Xiaoming, vice minister of transportation, told media China now has 4.86 million kilometers of road as of the end of 2018, on which drivers of electric cars will find 7,400 charging stations.

But of course, not everyone wants to stick around and deal with traffic jams.

According to online Chinese ticketing giant Ctrip, an estimated 7 million people are planning to travel internationally over the Chunyun period to more than 90 countries.

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