People returning home for Spring Festival can expect lengthy delays at train stations after the introduction of a new ID-based ticket booking system. The system will be effective on a trial implementation between Jan 30 and Feb 13.
The Ministry of Railways announced that passengers would have to show their ID card or other recognized identity document when buying a train ticket at 37 railway stations in Guangdong, Sichuan, Hunan and Guizhou provinces.
Spring Festival, or the Lunar Chinese New Year holiday, starts on Feb 14. Scalpers have traditionally used this holiday to stockpile tickets and sell them at much higher prices.
The stations covered by the new system and managed by Guangzhou Railway Group include seven in Guangdong and 19 in the neighboring Hunan.
The Guangzhou Railway Group said the new system would greatly increase the difficulty in organizing transport and become a challenge to Spring Festival railway transport.
Travelers are urged to use the latest version of their ID card to speed up the checking process.
Passengers can book tickets 10 days before the travel date. A person buying tickets for other people needs to present those people's ID cards and can buy no more than three tickets at a time.
The ministry said that enterprises buying tickets in groups for their employees would need to provide detailed personal ID information.
The scheme would not apply to high-end train services, including high-speed trains between Guangzhou and Wuhan.
China has long been troubled by serious train service shortage during the Spring Festival period, when hundreds of millions of people travel by train for family reunions and vacations.
The National Development and Reform Commission has predicted the nation's railway network will carry 210 million people during the 40-day peak, a rise of 9.5 percent on last year.
More than 18.5 million migrant workers in Guangdong returned home for Spring Festival last year and only 7.4 million tickets were sold before the first day of the 2009 Lunar New Year.
About 3 million tickets were sold at the railway station windows and the rest were booked in student and migrant worker groups and via a telephone booking system.
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(China Daily January 11, 2010)