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May 14, 2011

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Foreigners face rail ticket delay

FOREIGN rail passengers may need more time to buy bullet train tickets in local booths once a "real-name" booking policy is introduced later this month.

Unlike Chinese passengers who can just show their personal ID cards, foreigners need to provide passports or other documents, according to the policy issued by railway authorities. "The information on these documents will require more time for the ticket booths to verify and input," said a railway official, surnamed Dong, at Shanghai Railway Station yesterday.

Dong added that not all railway staff, unlike their airline counterparts, are proficient in English and other foreign languages, which could lead to misunderstandings.

The real-name ticket buying system, which is aimed at curbing rail ticket scalping and improving security, comes into effect on June 1 throughout China.

All bullet train services prefixed by the letters "G", "D" and "C" require passenger ID to buy a ticket.

There are 23 types of documents recognized by the ID system. Foreigners can buy tickets using their passports, temporary residence permits, exit-entry permits or diplomatic certificates as ID.

One certificate can only buy one ticket for one trip, rail officials said. Passengers should also show the certificates and tickets when boarding the trains.

From 3pm on May 22, passengers can use their accepted IDs to buy rail tickets with a boarding date of June 1.

"It will be a little bit inconvenient," said Laura Imkamp, an American student at Shanghai Fudan University.

Imkamp said she often buys railway tickets for friends and that it is risky to give passports to others.

To speed up the process, Dong advised foreign passengers to use residence permits, which are issued by local police and easy to recognize, instead of passports, which vary from country to country.

At one rail ticket outlet in downtown Jing'an Temple, staff said they may input the numbers of foreigners' certificates, instead of names which may be "hard to spell."

If foreigners fail to carry their certificates, they need a letter from their consulate to prove their identities and go to railway police for temporary certificates, authorities said.

Rail official stressed that automatic ticket machines at railway stations will only recognize Chinese residents' ID cards. But passengers with passports can book tickets via a hotline at 95105105.


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