BEIJING - Chinese authorities have vowed to crack down on uncivilised behaviour on public transport, as the country's largest annual migration of people fast approaches.
Tens of millions of Chinese will be hitting the road to return to their home towns for the Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, with most of them packing into buses and others into trains and planes for the journey home.
This year's spring rush, or chunyun, will see nearly three billion trips made during the 40-day festive period, the authorities reckon.
It is also certain to push the Chinese transportation system to its limits - scenes of chaos on board trains or at transportation hubs will not be uncommon.
In a bid to minimise the chaos, China's national planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), warned on Friday (Jan 18) that those who cause a nuisance on trains, flights and buses, or who wrongfully occupy seats, will be severely punished.
Said the NDRC's deputy director Lian Weiliang: "A very important reason why untrustworthy and uncivilised actions that violate order on public transport occur frequently is that the cost (of being a nuisance) is too low. An effective way to solve this is through comprehensive punishment."
Travellers who behave in such a manner can be fined and detained by security agencies, and also blacklisted and restricted from buying train or plane tickets for a period of time, said Mr Lian.
A record will also be entered into the offender's personal social credit history, he added.
His comments, at a briefing where officials told the media about the preparations by government agencies for the upcoming travel season, come about a week after the NDRC and eight other government agencies issued a notice calling for stiff punishments for those who misbehave on public transport.
Mr Lian told reporters that since March last year, the number of people who have been put on aviation and rail blacklists is 4,209 and 1,793 respectively.
Incidents involving rude and uncouth passengers make the headlines regularly. In some cases, there were fatal consequences.
Last October, a bus in Chongqing plunged into a river after a passenger attacked the driver because she had missed her stop. The crash killed all 15 people on board.
Mr Lian praised the media for shining a spotlight on such bad behaviour, noting that the number of such cases has dropped.
Besides penalties, the authorities will be setting up a platform on social networking app WeChat to allow people to flag bad or praiseworthy civic-minded behaviour.
Those who misbehave "must realise the serious consequences of such untrustworthy actions, so trustworthy and civilised behaviour becomes more commonplace", said Mr Lian.
At Friday's briefing, officials said about 2.99 billion trips are expected to be made during the 40-day Spring Festival travel rush from next Monday (Jan 21) to March 1. This is 0.6 per cent higher than the number of trips made last year.
About 2.46 billion of those trips will be made by long-distance coaches or cars, while 413 million journeys will be made by train.
Air travel will take up 73 million trips, and is the fastest-growing mode of transport, which saw a 12 per cent increase from last year. The remaining journeys are by boat.
Vice-Minister for Transport Liu Xiaoming reminded travellers to behave in a civilised manner so as to ensure a "peaceful and smooth" journey for everyone returning home to be reunited with their families.