More than 210 million passengers are expected to crowd China's railways during the upcoming Chinese New Year, as officials scramble to accommodate the record surge, a rail official said Wednesday.

"During the 2010 Spring Festival travel period..., we expect up to 18.2 million more passengers than last year, an increase of 9.5 percent," Gao Xiaobing told journalists.

"Although China's rail capacity increased rapidly both in length and speed, it is still not enough to meet the demands of the Spring Festival travel peak."

Chinese traditionally return to their hometowns and villages for family reunions with this year's travel period stretching from January 30 to March 10. The Lunar New Year falls on February 14.

During peak travel days that fall on both sides of the Lunar New Year, up to 6.5 million passengers could crowd China's railways each day, Gao said.

Freezing weather which has engulfed north and western China for much of this year, would complicate the travel surge that includes tens of millions of migrant workers flocking home and an increasing number of tourist travellers, he said.

Last year, a record 192 million passenger-trips were taken on the nation's rail system during the Lunar New Year travel period, while another 24 million took holiday-related flights, state press reports said at the time.

China's bus system usually bears the brunt of the travel burden, taking travellers from rail and air hubs out to rural towns and villages across the nation.

Gao did not give an estimate of how many people would be travelling during the upcoming holiday, but last year a record 2.3 billion passenger trips were made on various modes of transport throughout the nation during the period.