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January 7, 2010

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Rails seek to ease queues, ticket hoarding during holiday

THE coming crush of train travelers for the Spring Festival - an expected 211 million passengers nationwide - will once again test rail capacities during the 40-day peak.

"It's still too early to say whether there will be a tougher supply-demand imbalance of train services," said Lu Yingguo, an official with the Shanghai Railway Bureau.

"But the perspective for this year may still be grim, looking at the situation during previous years."

In Shanghai, students can already book group tickets for the Spring Festival season, which begins on January 30 and ends on March 10.

Bookings for the city's migrant workers will start next Monday.

Rail authorities said they are working to ease the long queues often seen in front of the tickets booths during holiday season. The city has 148 ticket outlets and opened a hotline for ticket sales in early December.

To prevent ticket hoarding during the holiday season, two Shanghai railway stations ruled that one person can buy a maximum of five tickets with one ID card via a booking hotline. Usually, passengers can buy 20 tickets at a time.

For students studying in the city, the route back home may be easier this year because winter vacation peaks on January 22 and 23, ahead of Spring Festival surge.

Last year, the two peaks came almost at the same time, leaving little room at crowded stations and trains.

Nationwide, train travel in the holiday season is expected to increase 9.5 percent over last year. Daily rail traffic will grow by 500,000 people to a record average high of 5.25 million a day, said the Ministry of Railways.

"I feel like buying the ticket as soon as possible before it's too late," said Zhou Chenxi, a Shanghai university student who faces a 55-hour trip home to northwest China's Qinghai Province.

Liu Yijun, a ticket official in Shanghai Railway Station said the tickets for students will be "guaranteed first," before selling other tickets.

The city's two stations are expected to sell about 100,000 group tickets for students. The bookings will end on January 29.

Passengers will find the Shanghai Railway Station a little easier to navigate: The north square, closed for renovation since 2008, will be partly reopened before the Spring Festival with a large new ticket outlet.


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