英文

Editorial : Preventing Tragedy in Spring Festival Travel Rush

【明報專訊】THE SPRING FESTIVAL TRAVEL RUSH has entered its tenth day. With inclement weather sweeping across the western and central regions of the mainland, some railway lines have been suspended or are operating at low speeds, leaving droves of passengers stranded. Some sections of highways have also been closed due to heavy rain and snow, leading to multiple traffic accidents.

This year marks the first Spring Festival after the complete relaxation of pandemic control measures. The pressure exerted by the Spring Festival travel rush on the transportation system is greater than that of any previous year. It is estimated that 9 billion people will move across regions over the 40 days around the Spring Festival. No matter whether they travel by public transport or on road trips, it will set a new record for the number of people on the move in human history.

On 3 February, the eighth day of the Spring Festival travel rush, a total of 200 million people were in transit, but most passengers' journeys were not smooth. Adverse weather conditions drifted across the central inland region from west to east. Trains were cancelled on a large scale or had to move at slow speeds. In regions such as Nanjing and Wuhan, crowds of passengers are stranded at train stations. The airport in Wuhan was frozen, with most flights cancelled or delayed. As regions such as Hubei and Jiangsu are transportation hubs connecting the south and the north, the impacts of the transportation chaos are having a knock-on effect on the entire country, posing problems to transportation between the north and the south of China as well.

The weather is difficult to predict. In 2008, heavy snow descended on northern Guangdong and Hunan. Electricity was suspended on the electrified railway for 20 hours, leaving 170,000 people stranded at Guangzhou train station. Passengers anxious to return to their hometowns for the Chinese New Year shivered with cold outside the train station square all night long, leading to a chorus of complaints. The government has tried to remedy the situation. When designing contingency plans, it now considers matters from one more perspective. Today, passengers stranded at train stations are provided with heating and hot water and are even given instant noodles to satisfy their hunger.

During the Spring Festival travel rush this year, 1.8 billion people will use public transportation. The number of train passengers is expected to reach 480 million, an increase of nearly 38% from last year. Railway departments have increased the train frequency to maximise transportation capacity. Even though an average of 12 million people take trains every day, it is currently not difficult to get hold of a ticket. However, judging from the number of ticket bookings, the most popular destinations, such as Anyang in Henan, Yueyang in Hunan, and Anqing in Anhui, are all severely affected by bad weather. What's even more tragic is trains having to run slowly or stop midway, with passengers fighting hunger and cold and seeing their journeys delayed.

Public transportation facilities are managed by departments that supply them. They can inspect the safety of machinery or systems in advance to ensure safe travel. However, the new situation is that the number of self-drive trips has more than doubled from last year. If accidents occur, the consequences will be worrying.

An even bigger crisis is the regulations' failure to catch up with the rising number of self-drive trips, which will make it impossible to achieve the goal of smooth and comfortable travel. The biggest crisis happens when the regulations' failure to catch up with the exponential growth of vehicles is coupled with bad weather. The combination of these three unfavourable factors can give rise to unimaginable situations at any time. With three-quarters of the Spring Festival travel rush still ahead, it is hoped that the responsible officials will be on heightened alert to prevent joy from turning into tragedy.

明報社評2024.02.05:天公不作美春運開局不順 亡羊補牢須慎防百密一疏

春運踏入第十天,由於惡劣天氣大面積影響內地西部和中部地區,導致鐵路部分線路停運或慢駛,大量旅客滯留,多條高速公路的一些路段也因雨雪交加而封閉,交通意外頻生。

今年是疫情管控措施全面放開後第一個春節,春運的壓力,比過去任何一年都要大,預計90億人次在春節前後的40天內跨區域流動,無論乘坐公共交通工具或者自駕出行,都會再一次創造人類歷史以來的最高紀錄。

2月3日春運第八天,共2億人次出行,但大部分旅客行程都並不順利,惡劣天氣由西向東橫亙內地中部地區,鐵路大面積取消班次,或者需要慢駛,南京、武漢等地的火車站出現大量滯留旅客,武漢機場結冰,大部分航班取消或延誤。湖北和江蘇等地是南北交通要衝,牽一髮而動全身,全國南北的交通也受阻。

天公作不作美難料,2008年廣東北部及湖南普降大雪,電氣化鐵路斷電20個小時,導致廣州火車站有17萬人滯留。焦急回鄉度歲的旅客,在火車站廣場外通宵達旦捱凍,怨聲載道。政府亡羊補牢,在設計應對方案時,多了一層考慮,而今滯留在火車站的旅客,都有暖氣、熱水供應,甚至獲得派發即食麵充飢。

今年春運18億人次使用公共交通工具,預計火車旅客達到4.8億人次,比去年增長近38%,鐵路部門雖然增加班次以提高運力,每日平均1200萬人次乘火車,目前未見一票難求情况,但從訂票數量看最熱門目的地河南安陽、湖南岳陽和安徽安慶,都是受惡劣天氣影響最嚴重的城市,更慘情的是乘坐的火車在中途慢駛甚至停駛,捱飢抵冷且延誤旅程。

公共交通工具由供應部門負責,可以提前檢查機械或者系統的安全,保障平安出行,但新的情况是自駕出行搭載乘客從去年增加一倍多,一旦意外發生,後果堪虞。

更大的危機在於自駕出行數量增加但管理跟不上,這就會導致順利舒適出行的目標都達不到,最大的危機是,公路上車輛成倍增加,加上管理跟不上,以及惡劣天氣三個不利因素同時出現,隨時出現不堪設想的局面。春運仍有四分之三還未完成,希望負責官員加倍警惕,慎防樂極生悲情况發生。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

inclement : (of the weather) not pleasant; cold, wet, etc.

on the move : to be travelling from place to place

adverse : negative and unpleasant; not likely to produce a good result

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