China's migrant millions head back after Chinese New Year

People wait in line to board their trains at Hongqiao train station in Shanghai, ahead of Chinese New Year on Feb 9, 2015. Vast numbers of Chinese were heading back to their workplaces Tuesday as the Chinese New Year holiday drew to a close. -- PHOTO
People wait in line to board their trains at Hongqiao train station in Shanghai, ahead of Chinese New Year on Feb 9, 2015. Vast numbers of Chinese were heading back to their workplaces Tuesday as the Chinese New Year holiday drew to a close. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

BEIJING (AFP) - Vast numbers of Chinese were heading back to their workplaces Tuesday as the Chinese New Year holiday drew to a close, with state media reporting a record near-10 million railway trips expected.

Chinese tradition dictates families gather in their home towns before the annual celebrations begin - on February 19 this year. Hundreds of millions of people who have left the countryside during China's economic rise to seek work in the cities return to their ancestral villages every year.

It is considered the world's largest human migration and authorities expected more than 2.8 billion trips to be taken on all forms of transport over the festive period.

With shops, business and government offices returning to normal on Wednesday the national train operator China Railway Corporation predicted 9.7 million individual trips would be taken on Tuesday, according to the People's Daily newspaper - about a million more than Monday.

More than 800 extra train services were laid on to try to cope with demand, it added.

China has long boasted an extensive rail system but in recent years has pushed the development of super-fast trains that have slashed travel times between major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, and made rail travel competitive with flying.

About 8.44 million trips were taken on Monday, the paper reported, a 21 percent increase from last year. There were 7.25 million train tickets sold, about half through online sales - an increasingly popular way to avoid long and hectic queues common during Chinese New Year.