Planet China

Single ticket

Every Lunar New Year the media highlights the colossal numbers of Chinese using the country’s railways, as they return home to family gatherings during the week-long public holiday. This year over 300 million passenger journeys were said to have been taken. Normally the photographic record of this mass migration shows trains full to bursting point. But a story that got a lot of attention last week involved a train journey that wasn’t overcrowded at all.

According to City Express, a temporary service put on between Hangzhou and Guiyang had just one passenger. The migrant worker Zhang Chengyong was travelling back from Zhejiang province to his home in Guiyang. And far from having to fight for a seat, he found he was the only traveller on the 19-coach train. Zhang told reporters that he felt lucky, but complained that the lack of fellow passengers had the downside that the temperature inside the train was cold. A conductor who has worked on Chinese trains for the past 35 years told City Express that it was the first time he had ever heard of a train carrying only a single passenger. The reason for this odd outcome seems to have been a planning miscalculation. Usually the route in question is heavily overcrowded, so to ease the situation the railway bosses added a series of extra services. Evidently they added one too many…

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