Festival travel rush eased by car sharing plan
Yang Shangru picked up a brand new shared car at Guangzhou South Station just seconds after submitting ID card information, paying a deposit, and getting his face scanned.
“I am waiting to take my friend home from the railway station,” he said.
Yang, 24, is among the first customers to benefit from the station’s “train + car sharing” initiative launched this year for the Spring Festival travel rush, intended to supplement public transport and even out passenger flow.
“Passengers can pick up a car immediately after they arrive at the station,” said Chen Guisheng, senior official with China Railway Guangzhou Group.
The 2018 Spring Festival travel rush, known as chunyun, started on Thursday. The Lunar New Year falls on February 16 this year.
Millions of Chinese return to their hometowns to celebrate the weeklong holiday. Guangzhou is expected to see more than 5.4 million trips made by train this year, accounting for about 14 percent of total rail transport in China.
In the past, passengers who lived far away or arrived too late to take public transport had difficulty heading home, which led to the rise of illegal cars and taxis around the station.
“With car sharing, passengers can go home no matter how late they arrive or how far they live,” Chen said.
“It can all be done with a mobile app or through the official WeChat account of Guangzhou rail group. Passengers can book a car while on the train before they arrive and can return cars to more than 700 special parking lots in the city,” he added.
The station cooperates with four auto companies, including Beijing Automotive Group and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation. More than 90 percent of the shared cars are new energy vehicles. The station has three parking lots, with over 1,100 spaces, and more than 100 charging facilities.
Another 200 charging facilities are being installed and will be put into use by the end of this year, Chen said.
Since the program was launched last Thursday, an average of 500 car sharing orders are received every day, according to the station.
There are three types of shared cars at the station, which cost from 0.5 yuan to 1.2 yuan per minute or from 183 yuan to 435 yuan per day. A deposit of 1,000 yuan (US$158.70) to 4,000 yuan is required.
“It usually costs me around 90 yuan to take a cab from the station to my home, about 30 kilometers, but the shared car only costs me 21.5 yuan,” said user Zhang Huijuan. “With a coupon, I was surprised to see the final cost of 1.5 yuan.”
China gave the nod to car sharing services last August, releasing a guideline to support the country’s booming car sharing industry and standardize its development.
Unlike traditional car rental services, car sharing services take advantage of new technology such as global-positioning and mobile Internet.
“High-speed trains plus car sharing can help quickly spread out huge passenger flows during chunyun, providing convenience to passengers and easing pressure on the rail system,” said Shu Jianqiu, professor with the Party School of China Railway Guangzhou Group.