Armed Police Control Stranded Beijing Travellers

January 21, 2006 Updated: January 21, 2006

BEIJING – Authorities sent in armed police to help control some 100,000 passengers stranded at Beijing train stations after snowfalls in central China paralysed a key section of the nation's railway grid, media reported on Saturday.

The transport collapse came just before the lunar new year festival, when hundreds of millions crisscross the country to rejoin families for the most important celebration in the Chinese-speaking world.

Ten cm (4 inches) of snow in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, was delaying southbound trains on the link between capital and the southern economic powerhouse of Guangzhou. Some 1,100 police were drafted in to control crowds at the worst-hit station, Beijing West, which had already reported a “red-level emergency”.

Another 60,000 people were stranded in Zhengzhou, many huddled in the cold outside the station, television pictures showed. Some trains were replaced by bus services, however, and the delays were shortening at the start of the weekend as workers raced to clear the line.

Most ticket prices were up 15 to 20 percent for the holiday period, and trains to many destinations were already fully booked, state television reported. Growing affluence means some Chinese now jet home, but most travellers still go by road or rail.