China’s official Spring Festival migration began on Thursday with railway officials predicting almost 140 (m) million travellers during the holiday season.

Chinese traditionally return to their home towns for the lunar new year, or Spring Festival, the biggest holiday of the year.

Every year the massive migration clogs China’s extensive rail network for weeks.

It’s the season Chinese rail officials and police dread — and the one Chinese people most look forward to.

The Chinese New Year rush officially began today.

This year, the new year falls on January 28 and the authorities are trying to get the migration going earlier than usual.

It is a brave effort to avoid the trouble that usually accompanies the chaotic scramble of more than 100 (m) million people trying to get home.

To control the bedlam that usually results from overpacked trains, the country’s tens of millions of rural migrant workers are being encouraged to leave early and return late from their home towns.

Most passengers can buy rail tickets only 10 days in advance, but this year migrants and students are being allowed to get theirs up to a month early.

The Chinese Railroad Bureau announced they aim to endure an orderly holiday season “without deaths, without injuries, without fires or explosions.”

This may prove difficult.

While fireworks are banned in Beijing and some other cities, the holiday is celebrated by most Chinese rather noisily.

For many of those travelling lunar new year is a time to look both back and forward.

Most have high hopes for the incoming Year of the Tiger.

SOUNDBITE: (Mandarin)
“My life in the Year of the Ox was just okay. I will work harder so that my career can move up a step in the year of the Tiger.”
SUPER CAPTION: Mr. Wang, salesman from North-East China

The Railroad Bureau’s estimate of just over 139 (m) million total passenger trips between January 8th and February 26th represents an increase of 3-point-4 percent over the corresponding figure last year.

This does not even include the large number of people expected to travel by air, bus or boat.

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