China implements effective measures to tackle blizzard-induced travel disruptions

February 6, 2024
Updated 2024/02/06 at 8:34 AM
10 Min Read
(240205) -- BEIJING, Feb. 5, 2024 (Xinhua) -- Staff members clear snow from railroad switches at Hefei East Railway Station in Hefei, east China's Anhui Province, Feb. 4, 2024. (Photo by Feng Tao/Xinhua)

BEIJING – In the remote heart of the rugged Dabie Mountains in central China, is a monitoring station along the Hefei-Wuhan Railway where the temperature in the area plummeted below freezing point at around 1 a.m.

Equipped with a gas-powered blowtorch, Liu Hongpu, a worker from China Railway Wuhan Bureau Group Co., Ltd., directed flames at the rails, with the ice and snow on the railroad switches quickly melting. He then swiftly followed up by clearing the ice debris using a snow shovel. “With the snowfall intensifying, the rails have developed ice, which hinders switches and poses a threat to train operations,” Liu explained.

He is among the millions of railway staff who have made extraordinary efforts to ensure the smooth and safe travels of hundreds of millions of passengers during China’s Spring Festival travel rush. The task has proven to be particularly challenging this year, given the heavy snowfall impacting eastern and central China.

In light of blizzards sweeping the provinces of Anhui, Hubei and Hunan, local authorities have initiated various measures and emergency responses to maintain the uninterrupted operation of transportation during the travel rush and safeguard the well-being of residents overall.

On Sunday, the National Meteorological Center renewed an orange alert for snowstorms in some parts of China, forecasting heavy snow in provinces such as Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu and Shandong. Such weather has brought significant challenges as the peak of this year’s travel rush is approaching, with the Spring Festival just days away.

Staff members clear snow on a road in Huainan City, east China’s Anhui Province, Feb. 4, 2024. (Photo by Chen Bin/Xinhua)

In the eastern province of Anhui, over 95 highway toll stations have refused entry to vehicles on Sunday, due to snowy and freezing conditions, causing inconvenience for many travelers. As of 9 a.m. Monday, 49 of them have reopened.

In the face of continuous snowfall and freezing weather, the traffic police in the province’s Fuyang City are working tirelessly to ensure safety during the Spring Festival travel rush.

“We have 34 officers and 8 police cars on duty around the clock,” said Li Liang, head of a highway brigade of Fuyang traffic police. “With low nighttime temperatures, we must conduct thorough patrols, addressing every point and segment. Even five to six meters of icy road sections cannot be overlooked.”

On Sunday, all urban and rural bus routes in Fuyang were temporarily suspended. Meanwhile, the local traffic police and transportation departments mobilized their entire workforce to guarantee safety during the travel rush.

According to the provincial emergency management department, a dedicated emergency team of over 12,400 personnel, equipped with more than 3,800 snow removal and ice-clearing machines, as well as 70,000 tonnes of snow-melting agents and anti-skid materials, has been strategically deployed across the province.

The ongoing road-clearing operations have involved over 15,000 manual laborers and around 4,000 pieces of snow removal machinery, covering nearly 12,000 kilometers of roadways throughout the province.

In the provincial capital Hefei, authorities have closed three main coach stations while mobilizing more than 300 units of machinery and vehicles to clear snow.

Staff members clear snow from railroad switches at Hefei East Railway Station in Hefei, east China’s Anhui Province, Feb. 4, 2024. (Photo by Feng Tao/Xinhua)

In central China’s Hubei Province, freezing rain and snow over the past few days have disrupted flights and railway traffic in several cities, including the provincial capital Wuhan, which is an important transportation hub.

According to the Hubei Airports Group Company, both runways at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport were once closed on Saturday evening due to adverse weather, with 385 flights canceled by 7 p.m. Sunday.

The airport initiated an emergency response for snow and ice removal early on Saturday morning, successfully reopening two runways on Sunday noon and Monday morning, respectively. Furthermore, the airport in the province’s city of Jingzhou also resumed full operation on Monday, after a nearly one-and-a-half-day suspension.

Wuhan, located at the geographical center of the national railway network in China, serves as a crucial hub with an extensive rail network connecting the northern and southern regions, making it a pivotal junction in the national railway system.

Speaking to Xinhua on Sunday, China Railway Wuhan Bureau Group Co., Ltd. said it has planned to suspend the operation of 141 round trips due to the widespread snowfall and freezing weather.

According to the Wuhan railway authorities, the recent suspension of train services can be attributed to the adverse effects of freezing rain and heavy snowfall, which have led to suboptimal conductivity of the railway overhead wires due to ice accumulation.

Additionally, the freezing of railroad switches has impeded their smooth operation, and the accumulation of snow along the tracks has resulted in reduced train speeds, which has impacted the operational efficiency of trains, leading to a substantial reduction in the number of round-trip journeys. These disruptions have significantly disturbed the previously set train schedules.

In response, the railway authorities have deployed nearly 3,000 workers to carry out snow removal at nearly 4,000 sets of railroad switches to ensure the smooth functioning of railway tracks.

Railway services resumed gradually on Monday, with 499 round trips scheduled, facilitating the transportation of approximately 500,000 passengers.

Police officers help push a stranded vehicle amid snowfall on a road in Wuling District of Changde City, central China’s Hunan Province, Feb. 4, 2024. (Photo by Yu Yingxian/Xinhua)

In Hunan Province, authorities are making efforts to reach four villages in Yanglousi Township in Linxiang City, after fallen trees blocked roads and disrupted power supplies for over 2,000 villagers.

Emergency response personnel, led by Pan Junliang, from the local emergency management department, are engaged in the critical task of snow removal on the roads in the township. “This road serves as a vital passage to the villages, and we started removing ice and spreading salt early on Sunday morning, so we can restore unimpeded access quickly.”

Railway authorities in the province have imposed speed limits on the Chongqing-Xiamen and Zhangjiajie-Jishou-Huaihua high-speed railways, leading to delays for some trains. On Monday, China Railway Guangzhou Group Co., Ltd. suspended 58 trains, including 49 passing through the province.

Amid delays affecting several trains on Sunday afternoon, the waiting areas at railway stations in Beijing and Wuhan experienced crowded conditions with an influx of passengers.

Consequently, the Beijing West Railway Station adjusted the passenger entry time. Continuous announcements echoed throughout the station, serving as reminders for passengers. To handle the crowd, station personnel were stationed at the waiting hall and boarding entrances to ensure a safe and organized flow of people.

About 1,000 km away, a bustling atmosphere persisted at Wuhan Railway Station, even in the early hours of Sunday. Despite significant delays, the arrival of trains sparked excitement among passengers.

“My train has finally arrived, despite the delay of five to six hours,” said a passenger surnamed Zhou, originally from Chibi City in Hubei. He had flown from Shandong to Wuhan on Saturday morning and had planned to take a high-speed train to his hometown.

Zhou said that the high-speed train journey would only take half an hour, and his wife had prepared a hearty meal eagerly awaiting his return. “The weather is severe, and everyone is doing their best. Waiting a little longer is not that bad.”¬†(Video reporters: Dai Bin, Yu Chunsheng, Chen Zhenhai, Yang Jinxin, Yang Jing, Pan Zhiwei, Yu Guoqing, Yue Wenwan, Yang Muqian, Wang Zichen, Xu Haibo, Bai Bin; Video editors: Zhang Yueyuan, Luo Hui, Zheng Xin, Zhang Qiru, Zhang Nan)

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