For migrants, no Web, no train ticket

Updated: 2012-01-06 08:03

By Wu Yiyao (China Daily)

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SHANGHAI - Migrant workers complain that without Internet access, they have had more problems than ever buying train tickets since railway authorities launched the online ticket booking system.

For migrants, no Web, no train ticket

Two women catch up on thier sleep before boarding their train at Beijing West Railway Station on Thursday. With the holiday season fast approaching migrant workers have complained of difficulties purchasing tickets online and being forced to eundure long queues at trian stations. [Photo Zou Hong/China Daily]

Huang Qinghong, a 37-year-old migrant worker in Wenzhou, East China's Zhejiang province, wrote railway authorities to complain about the difficulty of buying train tickets for Spring Festival travel.

The tickets go on sale in the online and phone booking systems two days earlier than in train stations or through authorized ticket agents. While migrant workers wait for hours in line, tickets for the most popular routes are snapped up within minutes of becoming available on the computer system.

In the past, migrant workers could wait for hours in the cold of winter, sometimes overnight, to buy tickets at train stations or from ticket agents. And they might have been successful. Now they have no way to get tickets, Huang wrote, because they have no access to Internet and do not know how to book tickets by phone.

"In the past, I lined up in the early morning for a ticket, but now I don't even have that opportunity," he wrote.

Many of Shanghai's 9 million migrant workers are struggling to get back home for the Spring Festival.

Liu Shuowen, one such worker, said he tried booking a train ticket online and by phone to Dazhou, in Southwest China's Sichuan province - without success.

On Wednesday, he tried his luck with an authorized ticket agent, but was told tickets to Dazhou had been sold out for two days.

Up to 60,000 tickets were sold by online booking in Shanghai on Jan 1, six times the average amount before Spring Festival travel.

Many migrant workers choose to take trains despite the trouble getting tickets because they cannot afford long-distance coaches or flights.

Liu said he had considered other ways to get home, but a coach ticket from Shanghai to Dazhou costs 712 yuan ($110), and a flight plus coach costs more than 1,200 yuan, compared with 438 yuan by train.

Li Fang, a ticket agent on Huaihai Road, said she tells more than 100 people a day "the tickets are gone".

Ning Chunxia, a 42-year-old domestic helper, said she got her ticket to Zhongxiang, in Central China's Hubei province, with the help of her employer's daughter.

"I don't have the time or ability to deal with computers, but my employer's daughter helped me and got a train ticket in three minutes," she said.

But many of her fellow workers were not as lucky.

"They said they'll just have to stay in Shanghai for the holidays," Ning said.

In response to passengers' complaints, Shanghai railway authorities said the online and phone booking systems are necessary and convenient, and they are a powerful tool against ticket scalpers during the Spring Festival.

They also said they have introduced measures to make it easier for migrant workers to get tickets, including reducing the required number of members for group tickets from 30 to 10.

More tickets have been reserved for migrant workers - 60 percent of all tickets for trains with the initial L, the temporary routes, and 40 percent of tickets on the normal routes.

But even if all train tickets were reserved for migrant workers, they would still be in short supply because of the huge demand, authorities said.