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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Keeping track of precious rail tickets

By Wu Wencong and Yang Wanli (China Daily)

08:46, January 19, 2012

A foreign visitor finds procedures at Changsha Railway Station confusing as he phones a friend for travel advice. Buying a train ticket during peak season can be a daunting prospect. (Xinhua Photo)

Whoever said getting there is half the fun hasn't tried to buy a train ticket for a Spring Festival trip home.

First, there is the intense competition for a finite number of seats, or even standing room. The Ministry of Railways expects a record 235 million passengers to travel across the country between Jan 8 and Feb 16, the most important holiday season for Chinese family gatherings.

Then there is the requirement that people use their identity cards when buying tickets - a system intended to foil ticket scalpers - and the limitations of new computer and telephone booking systems.

It's hard enough for Chinese citizens, but can be even more difficult for foreigners.

"It may not be intimidating, but was indeed a little scary." That's how Muazzem Hussain described his experience buying a train ticket at Beijing South Railway Station, and it happened in a much less busy time of year.

Hussain, 31 and a British national, wanted to take a bullet train overnight from Beijing to Shanghai last June during the Dragon Boat Festival. The real-name ticket system had started several days earlier.

"I went to the small shop window (at a ticket agency) nearby and queued up as usual, but was told to go to the train station for tickets," he said.

Hussain wasn't told why he couldn't buy tickets at the agency. He teaches English but his Chinese is poor, limiting his communication with people who speak only Chinese.

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