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December 1, 2010

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Anger over rail ticket rule change

UNUSED train tickets, except for those for bullet trains, will become invalid after designated departure time, according to revised railway regulations which take effect today.

The change to the rule on tickets has drawn many complaints online. Previously, late passengers could exchange tickets for other trains up to two hours after departure time.

Under the new rules, passengers wanting to exchange their tickets will have to do so before departure time. People who miss the train, except for bullet trains, will require a permit from the stationmaster if they want to change to other trains within two hours.

One netizen in Shaanxi Province said the train operators were more interested in sharing the profits from ticket sales than in the interests of passengers.

"The revised rules should also specify compensation to passengers if a train runs late," he said.

News about the national railway authorities' latest move attracted more than 10,000 comments on, one of China's major news portals, by 7pm yesterday.

The Ministry of Railways said the new regulations had been introduced to meet the demands of passenger transport development but didn't explain why the exchange rule had changed.

Liu Chunquan, a lawyer with the Shanghai Panocean Law Firm, said the rule on exchanges was unreasonable and a step backward.

He said train operators and passengers agreed on a contract when selling or buying tickets. "Late-arriving passengers should bear some responsibility for breaching the contract," he said. "But nullifying the train ticket is too heavy a penalty. Some train tickets are very expensive and migrant workers may have paid a whole month's salary for them.

"Moreover, absent passengers won't cause a very big loss on the train operator because most of domestic trains take many passengers and empty seats could still be sold at stops along the way," he said.

Passengers who miss flights can take another one or get a partial refund except when their tickets are heavily discounted.

Long-distance bus passengers are also able to get partial refunds if they are late.

In addition to the rule on rail ticket exchanges, the threshold height for children's half-price tickets has been raised by 10 centimeters to take into account the fact that children are getting taller earlier.

Children between 1.2 to 1.5 meters can buy half-price tickets from today, compared with 1.1 to 1.4 meters before.

The new rules also stipulate that bullet train passengers can't have luggage weighing more than 20 kilograms or over 130 centimeters in length.


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