Unpaid tickets plague railways
2013-1-31 (accessed 31 January 2013)
“With many stressed-out travelers still scrambling for train tickets home for Spring Festival, the Ministry of Railways said Wednesday that huge numbers of tickets booked over the phone and not paid for by the deadline are being put back on sale.
An average of 460,000 tickets from all selling systems had been returned to the ticket pool every day during the first three days of the current travel peak, doubling the number of tickets returned during last year’s travel rush, the People’s Daily reported.
Many travelers who are still hunting for tickets are left wondering why there are so few tickets available one day and then many more are for sale the next”.
Read more on Global Times
China’s railway fears invasion of the ticket snatchers
2013-1-25 (accessed 31 January 2013)
“For the tens of millions of Chinese who will journey back home next month for the Chinese New Year, fighting over the limited supply of train tickets is nothing new. But this year, the fight has moved online, and somewhat controversially.
So-called “ticket snatching” web browser plug-ins have gone viral and become a must-have among Chinese hoping to travel over the New Year holiday. The small programs automatically refresh the website through which train tickets are sold and alerts users when one is available. But although consumers love the convenience, the railways ministry is not so happy with the savvy programmers trying to game their system.
During the Chinese Lunar New Year, which this year falls in February, China’s railway is at its busiest as far-flung family members gather, many for the only time in the whole year. The government estimates that 225m rail journeys will be taken this year, according to state media.
Unfortunately for travellers, demand always exceeds the supply that China’s monopolized railway ministry can provide, and fights over train tickets have never stopped. Because the ministry starts issuing train tickets online on its site, 12306.cn, two days earlier than at train stations, many pin their hopes on the internet.
Typically, travellers have to manually refresh the webpage, sometimes for hours, either right before the time when tickets are meant to be released, or afterwards in hope of finding tickets that have been returned. Tickets for many journeys are sold out within seconds, so although the lucky are able to grab one, the less fortunate get nothing.
Enter the “ticket snatching” plug-in, which has help many to successfully obtain tickets without needing to click refresh, refresh, refresh.
“I want to help people to save time,” says the engineer who invented China’s first such plug-in last Lunar New Year.
However, he soon found that his plug-in had become controversial”.
Read more on beyondbrics
How not to beat the rush for Chinese train tickets
2013-1-22 (accessed 31 January 2013)
The issue also received a great deal of attention on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblog platform similar to Twitter, receiving well over 10,000 comments. Weibo users also rushed to the couple’s defence, with some also expressing frustration with the rigid bureaucracies that allow consumer needs to go unheeded in this, and many other, sectors of China’s economy.
Many users lamented that ticket regulations were too strict, or thought that they needed to be adjusted so that market needs could be met. @一肚子坏水0 wrote, “As long as there exists an immense need among the people, regulations just can’t be too rigid. This [type of service] shouldn’t be attacked, but rather made use of.” @徐亚晶 commented that you can’t “touch or argue with” bureaucratic monopolies.
Others were frustrated that the couple was arrested for providing a service badly needed by some of China’s poorest citizens. @Oover嬌O wrote, “How many migrant workers can get online? … The system has got problems; you can’t blame people when they take advantage of an opportunity!” @移不动联不通2012 asked rhetorically whether the authorities could “tell the difference between a 10 yuan service fee and a scalper ripping customers off? Both sides were perfectly satisfied but the government just had to get involved and screw things up.”
Whether these calls to make train tickets more accessible to China’s migrant workers are heeded by the powers that be, they likely provide cold comfort to Mr Zhong and Ms Mo, who will spend their holidays in detention”.
Read more on The China Daily Mail
One couple tries a solution to China’s train ticket crunch — and gets arrested
2013-1-17 (accessed 31 January 2013)
“So when newly-wed couple Mr. Zhong and Ms. Mo began offering a 10 RMB (about US$1.60) ticket-buying service in the provincial capital of Guangzhou, hundreds of busy migrant workers in the city were only too happy to spring for the fee, which is roughly the price of a bowl of noodles in a typical Guangzhou noodle shop. But on January 9, the couple — who openly advertised their services outside their small shop — were arrested for selling train tickets without a license, which is illegal under Chinese law.
While the authorities were quick to defend the couple’s arrest, saying that strict regulation was necessary to prevent fraud and ticket scalping, many of Mr. Zhong and Ms. Mo’s customers were eager to speak out on their behalf. “They didn’t charge us an exorbitant fee,” a factory worker named Mr. Zhang told Sina News. “A 10 RMB service fee for getting a train ticket is a real deal, why have they been arrested? A round trip to the train station [to buy a ticket] would cost me more than 10 yuan, and I might not even get a ticket.”
Read more on TeaLeafNation