On Thursday January 12th, China Railway Guangzhou that the high-speed railway from the Chinese mainland to Hong Kong will resume operations from Sunday, January 15th. The section linking Shenzhen’s Futian and West Kowloon in Hong Kong of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong High-Speed Railway is returning to operations after a pause of nearly three years.
According to CNN, crowds waited in line at Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Station on January 12th to be the first ones to book tickets bound for mainland China.
The Lunar New Year, China’s biggest holiday, falls this year on 22 January. Thousands are preparing to reunite with families as the country finally abandoned its zero-Covid policy.
The regained freedom of movement is expected to see millions of people traveling from big cities to their hometowns in the countryside as well as abroad. Called, China’s “great migration”, the Ministry of Transport estimates over 2 billion people will travel over the next few weeks, a staggering 99.5% increase compared to last year and 70.3% of the 2019 level.
We will take into account the demand, and see how we can increase the number of tickets on a daily basis.Lam Sai-hung, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Transport and Logistics
The sale of train tickets has so far been throttled given that rail operators are still trying to return to normal operations a few days before the Lunar New Year travel rush, which is expected to see a spike in the number of travelers wanting to celebrate with family.
At first, the railway department will arrange for cross-border high-speed trains from Guangzhou and Shenzhen to West Kowloon, with an average of 77 bullet train services every day. The department will adjust the schedule according to the passenger flow and promote the orderly recovery of cross-border high-speed rail passenger transportation. According to MTR Corporation, which operates the Hong Kong side of the link, more than 3,000 tickets were sold when on the day the announcement was made.
Hong Kong’s Secretary for Transport and Logistics Lam Sai-hung announced the city’s government is trying to make sure immigration and customs procedures run smoothly for travelers. “We will review the operation of the rail services. And then we will take into account the demand, and see how we can increase the number of tickets on a daily basis,” Lam Sai-hung told the press.
According to CNN, Hong Kong had a daily quota of 60,000 visitor arrivals from the mainland Prior to the high-speed link’s reopening. The rule was applied across seven other border checkpoints. Immigration department data reveals that in the first days of reopening, there have been roughly 21,000 arrivals from mainland China from Sunday through Wednesday. According to government statistics, less than 6,000 people have been arriving daily so far.
Some are still anxious to travel for the Lunar New Year. After the government lifted pandemic controls back in December, Covid cases began to go up. On December 29th, China’s chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou assured at a press conference that infections in populous cities such as Tianjin, Chengdu Beijing had reached their limit. Official numbers now cite about 5,000 cases per day, but many think this is severely misinforming, the BBC reporting the “daily case load may be closer to a million”, with overwhelmed hospitals and a nationwide lack of basic medicine.
It is expected that in the near future, train services from Beijing to Hong Kong and other cities in mainland China will also resume, as Hong Kong and the mainland continue the gradual easing of Covid-related measures.