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January 24, 2011

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Home » Metro » Public Services

Hotline only adds to rail ticket woes

ABOUT a million people have been leaving Shanghai by train every day since the Spring Festival transport rush began last Wednesday.

But getting a ticket has become increasingly difficult with phone booking, a service designed to make things easier seeming to make the problem worse.

A huge number of booked tickets are being left unclaimed, after being temporarily removed from sale.

That's because many passengers don't trust the system and, in addition to booking by phone, also queue up at ticket booths. If they are successful at the booth, they then let their booking lapse.

Thousands of tickets reserved on the 95105105 railway ticket hotline have been left unclaimed since last Wednesday and the figure reached a peak on Friday, railway officials said.

Some 80,944 tickets were booked on that day but more than 50,000 of them remained unclaimed after the 24-hour deadline had passed.

Passengers who book by phone have 24 hours to claim their tickets and pay for them and only after that deadline has passed do unsold tickets become available again.

"We all try multiple ways at the same time to increase chances of getting a ticket," said one man waiting in line at one of the city's railway stations. "I wait up here in line for tickets while I also keep calling the booking hotline. I also have my friends waiting at other windows to buy tickets for me."

Many others were also doing the same, waiting in the queue while also calling the booking hotline.

"If we manage to get the tickets in person from the ticketing windows, we leave the phone-booked tickets to expire automatically. It's a common tactic," the man said.

An industry insider said: "Many travelers are scared by the tight ticket market during the transport rush and lack trust in the phone booking system. So for them, phone booking is only a back-up action taken together with lining up to buy the ticket in person."

Railway officials are advising passengers to keep checking in case tickets that were said to have been sold out became available again after unclaimed tickets are put back on sale.

"We hope more passengers could timely pick up their booked tickets to avoid wasting the already precious resource," said Chen Si'en, a Shanghai railway official.

During the 40-day Spring Festival transport rush between January 19 and February 27, almost 7 million people are expected to leave Shanghai by train, an increase of 9.6 percent over the same period of last year, railway officials said.

On Saturday, 917,000 passengers left the city by train, an increase of 22.6 percent over the same day of last year.

Meanwhile, railway police said yesterday they had detained 400 people suspected of ticket touting in Shanghai and neighboring provinces in recent weeks, busting 37 gangs and 59 fake ticket production hideouts and retrieving almost 3,000 tickets worth 450,000 yuan (US$68,356).

The Railway Ministry said that any railway worker convicted of ticket touting would be fired immediately.

Transport authorities estimate some 2.85 billion people will be traveling home during the 40-day travel peak, with 230 million going by train.


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