China pilots name-based train ticket sales during Spring Festival traffic rush

08:50, January 12, 2010      

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China's railway authorities are gearing up for a real-name ticket selling system to stop ticket scalping during the upcoming Spring Festival traffic rush.

Passengers walk on the platform after their arrival in Hefei railway station in Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui Province, Jan. 3, 2010. The railway service in Hefei railway station faced passenger peak as the new year holiday came to an end. (Xinhua File Photo)

The pilot system announced Friday requires passengers to show their ID cards or other identification documents when purchasing train tickets at 37 stations in the southern Guangdong and Hunan provinces, and also the southwestern province of Sichuan.

Millions of migrant workers from inland provinces like Sichuan and Hunan work in Guangdong, known as China's "factory of the world."

The system will take effect during the Spring Festival traffic peak season, from Jan. 30 to March 30. The Spring Festival, or China's Lunar New Year, falls on Feb. 14 this year.

China's Spring Festival transport is seen as the world's largest annual human migration as tens of millions of migrant workers return home, often their only chances for family gatherings.

The National Development and Reform Commission forecast some 210 million train trips over the holiday period, a rise of 9.5 percent from a year earlier.

China's transport authorities have long been fighting against scalpers, who were blamed for worsening the ticket shortage problem by stockpiling tickets and reselling them at higher prices.

"I've been working in Guangzhou for years. During each Spring Festival, I had to pay scalplers almost double the price for a ticket back home," said a migrant worker from Hunan.

"And the risk of buying fake tickets was always there," he said.

Shi Yanhai, a migrant worker from Sichuan, said she hadn't been back home for five years because it was too hard to buy a train ticket during the traffic peak.

"Hopefully I'll be able to buy a ticket this year after the real-name system takes effect," she said.

Nearly 80 percent respondents believed that the new system would help stop ticket scalping and make tickets purchasing easier during the holiday, according to an online survey by, one of China's major internet portals.

Although welcomed by the majority, the new ticket selling system is faced with challenges. Some said the new rule might make train travel more complicated.

"I now only need to tell the ticket seller the date and destination of my trip. But after the system is effective, I have to show my ID card. That will make the queue longer!" said Zuo Xiaoyan, a migrant worker from Hunan, when queuing at Guangzhou railway station ticket lobby.

Under the new rule, ticket check might take much longer time at the railway station. Unlike an airplane that can only carry hundreds of passengers, a train normally carries 2,000 passengers and it will take long time to get all passengers aboard.

Possible delays at the train station might cause security problems, said a railway ministry official at a press conference late last year.

Fake identity cards or documents will be another problem.

According to the statement issued by the Ministry of Railways, besides ID cards, other identification documents such as diplomat certificates, military IDs, and consulate certificates, are all applicable when purchasing a ticket.

As most of these certificates couldn't be checked online, some netizens questioned if the ticket sales staff could tell the difference between a real certificate and a fake one.

"To improve the efficiency of ticket check, we have added another 100 ticket entrances and 3,000 ticket check staff at the train station," said Huang Xin, director of passenger service department of Guangzhou Railway Group said.

The Guangzhou Railway Group also started to use a new ID recognition system, including an ID card reader, a camera and a printer, to shorten the ID verification time.

"The real-name system aims to crack down on scalpers," Huang said," We're sorry for the inconveniences that might be caused by the trial. But We badly need understanding and support from passengers."

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