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January 21, 2010

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Festival railway tickets go fast

NO one had to wait too long in the queue when Spring Festival rail tickets went on sale yesterday, but many routes sold out quickly.

More than 2,000 people turned up at Shanghai Railway Station when the 200 ticket booths opened, but some would-be travelers, even when they were first in line, found that the tickets they wanted had already been sold.

"The rail staff told me the tickets had run out," said Liu Jie, a migrant worker who wanted to take the train to southeastern China's Fuzhou City in Fujian Province on February 9.

Liu, 22, was at the ticket booths at about noon, three hours ahead of the new ticket sales opening time of 3pm, and was head of the queue at one booth.

More ticket booths and more means to get tickets, such as a hotline and automatic machines, meant that the available stock of tickets sold out quickly, railway authorities said.

This year there are 728 booths citywide, a 54 percent jump over last year's 473 and people are allowed to buy a maximum of five tickets each.

Passenger volume during the 40-day Spring Festival rush is also expected to increase with an estimated 6.48 million leaving from the city's two railway stations, an 8.5 percent rise over last year. The rush begins on January 30.

Limited train capacity and a shortage of tickets have always been two things that have led to complaints from potential passengers.

Shanghai Railway Bureau, which covers train services in Shanghai and nearby Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces, said yesterday that all tickets will be sold via the booth networks or by telephone and there would be no special arrangements for rail staff.

"It's a fair game for everyone," said Zhao Jun, deputy director of the bureau.

Any rail staff found hoarding tickets or selling them to scalpers would be fired, Zhao said.

Officials also said 1,023 trains would be in use this year, a 10.8 percent rise on last year's 923. Temporary trains and extra carriages would be added as necessary.

Yesterday, the bullet train tickets were among the first to be sold out. Direct services to cities such as Chengdu, Chongqing, Fuzhou and Shenyang were popular, with tickets running out within half an hour after the booths opened.

More than 200 police officers and army soldiers were in the square to keep order.

For those who failed to get the tickets, the annual reunion with their families was at stake.

"I will try my luck tomorrow," said the empty-handed Liu.


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