Kids' corner brings smiles to young passengers

Dining car activities assuage children's restlessness while cooped up on long train journeys. Luo Wangshu reports.

By Luo Wangshu | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-23 08:08
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A train attendant helps a young passenger put a commemorative seal on a postcard gifted by the train from Hangzhou to Cangnan county in Zhejiang province on Jan 26. ZHOU WEI/FOR CHINA DAILY

Many parents have long toiled over how to keep their children entertained during extended train journeys, fearing the wrath of both their restless young progeny and of disturbed passengers.

A trial to address the issue was introduced during this year's Spring Festival rush, as millions of travelers embarked on journeys during the holiday.

A temporary children's corner was introduced to provide entertainment for young passengers and offer a short break for their caretakers, with the aim to make journeys more enjoyable and relaxed, enhancing the travel experience for all passengers.

The service was initiated on Jan 26, coinciding with the start of the Spring Festival travel rush, on a sleeper train with a journey of about 2,500 kilometers and spanning nearly 23 hours between Beijing and Nanning, the capital of southern China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

During each service, the children's corner opens for two hours in the dining car. Train attendants inform passengers with children of the time and location, inviting them to join the activity.

"We set up reading, coloring, paper-cutting and block building areas at four tables. Children can engage in various activities according to their interests," train conductor Dong Liqiong said, adding that two attendants and staff from the dining car can assist the young passengers at the corner.

"Since the winter vacation began (in mid-January), there are many young travelers on our train. They are either traveling to pay a visit to the capital, or heading south to avoid the harsh winter in Beijing. The journey is about 23 hours and it is quite long for adults, let alone children. Many children just stare at phones or tablets on the train. We want to make their trips more fun," she said.

The train, with 18 carriages and one dining car, can take up to 984 passengers.

The Z5 service departs from Beijing at around 4 pm and arrives at Nanning at about 3 pm the next day. The corner opens at about 8:30 to 9:30 pm and 10 to 11:00 am the next day. On the Z6 service traveling between Nanning and Beijing, the corner opens at 2:30 to 3:30 pm and 8:30 to 9:30 pm.

"We select the time for when it is often less busy so that attendants can offer help. It is also when most people finish their meals and there is usually some vacancy in the dining car," Dong said.

On the Z5 service that departed from the capital on Jan 30, there were more than 200 children onboard, with many of them traveling with their grandparents.

"The train is a sleeper train, so it is particularly accommodating for both elderly and young travelers, making it very popular among families," Dong said.

On the train, almost every cabin had a child, and young travelers were often playing, running and talking in the corridor.

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