Skip to content

Xinguanren project 7. Name imprinted tickets

May 7, 2012

konjaku: this is an excellent article which deals perceptively with all aspects of the name imprinted ticket system.

Name imprinted tickets are unable to solve the underlying problem

China net 2011-02-09

This year, the National Railway launched a pilot project in enlarging the scope of the name imprinted ticket system. Last year the project involved Guangzhou and Chengdu stations. This year it expanded to the the Wuhan-Gaungzhou high speed railway, the Zhengzhou –Xian High Speed Railway, and the Wuhan railway.

However, while the system of name imprinted tickets gives customers the feeling that there is now more fairness when it comes to purchasing tickets, the system does nothing to increase transport capacity to meet demand, which is the fundamental contradiction.

During the Spring Rush, the railway experiences its heaviest period of use. Last year the Guangzhou Railway Group had to invest over 100 million yuan just for equipment to implement the system, and to temporarily hire 26,000 workers. The Guangzhou area railways put more than 7000 security guards into service. Obviously, with this year’s expansion of the system, the investment will be that much greater.

With all this investment, last year the system seemed to work pretty well. Activities of scalpers were somewhat curtailed, and most passengers in the Guangzhou  area went through an orderly process without excessive delays. The media reported that a great many passengers were satisfied.

However, while the system of name imprinted tickets gives customers the feeling that there is now more fairness when it comes to purchasing tickets, the system does nothing to increase transport capacity to meet demand, which is the fundamental contradiction. As long as transport capacity remains pinched, “the difficulty of obtaining a ticket” during the spring rush will remain an embarrassing problem.

Although the railway has invested heavily in manpower and material resources in an effort to attack and restrain the actions of ticket scalpers, however much they have widened the sphere of operations, the scalpers have not completely disappeared.

The fundamental reason for the existence of the scalper is that supply and demand for tickets is unbalanced. For a long time, the railway has been relatively cheap compared to other forms of passenger transport, and demand for tickets during the spring rush is too great. This creates a market for scalpers to reap profits.

The imprinted name ticket system only increases the degree of difficulty for the scalper, but the ticket scalper can still manipulate the new technology. The scalper can order tickets by phone, make and sell false documents. These new strategies in turn increase the difficulty for Public Security to attack the problem. An expert believes the system can never thoroughly wipe out ticket scalping. What is necessary is for all the people to be honest and sincere, and fully aware of the law.

In these two years of the pilot project, the process of purchasing tickets has become more convenient. One can order by phone or purchase through a ticket agent. For many people, this eliminates the need to stand all night in a long line. Last year in Guangzhou there were 15,000 phone orders, and in Chengdu 6000.

However, it is not easy to get through by phone. Last year in Chengdu, there were as many as 430,000 attempted calls within the space of half an hour. When one does get through, the need to input one’s identity number to buy the ticket makes the call take up time. That is the reason it is difficult to get through.

In addition it is very troublesome for passengers to change or return tickets. Since it takes time to process an unwanted or unused ticket and make it available again for sale, these become “dead tickets,”  causing many people to be unable to purchase tickets and get seats.

Having proper documents is troublesome.

For customers, the name imprinted ticket system has another inconvenience. It requires three things be in correspondence when the passenger enters the station, “ticket, identity, and person.” In order for the station employee to punch the ticket, the passenger’s documents must first be checked and examined by a scanning machine. Because of their apprehension over this process and how long it might take, many passengers arrive at the station 3 to 5 hours before their train departure.

Under this new system, there are still customers who are unable to buy tickets. Many of these belong in the category of having a comparatively low level of culture. For this group of people, the imprinted ticket system not only increases the net cost of buying a ticket, but it adds to the time and resources the person must expend to buy the ticket. Many of these people do not customarily carry an identity card on their person. Some do not even have an identity card. In the current state of affairs, the system benefits those urban dwellers who have smart identity cards (chip enabled “second generation” cards) which can be easily read by the computers used by the railways and matched to their database. For the mass of peasants on the outer areas of the city, and for students, the system is quite inconvenient.

According to a police survey, since peasants and temporary workers lack the sophistication to order tickets by phone, they increasing rely on a group of small scale scalpers who specifically target them. These “quasi-scalpers” are not expert scalpers, but simply persons with slightly more understanding about how the name imprinted ticket system works. They themselves may even be peasants or temporary workers.

Most people cannot write off their tickets on expense accounts. Therefore they have no reason to keep their tickets once they have used them, and simply throw them away as they are leaving the station. The information on the tickets [name and identity number] can be used by others to make fake identity documents, which they can illegally offer for sale.

Because the use of smart identity cards is by no means universal, in last year’s trial of the system, Guangzhou railway listed 20 types of identification documents  that could be used to buy tickets, while Chengdu allowed more than 30. During this year’s trial, more than 35 types of documents were allowed. However, since possessing valid credentials is a wider social problem, there are still people who do not have valid IDs and therefore cannot travel long distances.

The railway public security sector opened a special window to assist those who do not carry valid documents. By using the census registry they assist the passenger in proving her or his identity and purchasing a ticket. Of those who line up at this window, nearly all appear to be peasants.

Greater forces versus one small railway ticket

Implementing the name imprinted ticket system causes the process of buying tickets to become more fair, but there are also added inconveniences, and the expenditures involved end up adding an increased cost which is borne by the whole society. The only thing that changes is that there is a greater degree of transparency in how tickets are allotted and distributed. The transport capacity “cake” doesn’t get any bigger or smaller. Considering the cost involved to run extra trains, and the possible profits, it really is impossible to grow the railway network exponentially just for this brief period of time.

If the name imprinted ticket system does lead to more impartiality in “dividing the cake” it may conversely encourage people to have more enthusiasm for “making cake” and expanding the railway.

With all the rapid development in recent years, the Chinese railroads are still embarrassed when confronted with the problem of transport during the spring festival. This year all the railroads of the entire country have the capacity to transport  6,200,000 people a day, an increase of 700,000, or 12.5%. Even with this, the largest capacity ever, it will be difficult to satisfy the demand during the spring rush.

The problem is a railway problem, but also a problem for all of society. Disequilibrium in social development, lack of transport –these are not things a name imprinted ticket system can solve. It requires, first, a fundamental restructuring of social development away from urban concentrations, and second, a strong expansion in railroad development.

One thing we can be glad about: Since the 16th party conference in 2002, the rapid expansion of the railway network has elicited the amazement of people all over the world, and the building of high speed railways has become one of the points of pride of the government and the economy. In order to transform the disequilibrium in economical development, various regional governments already have plans in the works. But for development to reach a relative equilibrium, the railroad transport capacity must undergo a great expansion. Only then will the potential of one small railway ticket not be crushed under greater forces.

konjaku: from a blog

This city has recently begun to implement the name -imprinted ticket system. The question is, will this system solve the problem of making railway tickets during the spring rush easier to get or not?

Some people think, that because the imprinted name ticket system will restrict the use of special privilege tickets –tickets bought through “connections,” “inside tickets,” scalped tickets, etc., this will make tickets in general easier to acquire.

Others point out that the fundamental cause of tickets being hard to acquire is the lack of transport capacity to accommodate demand for seats. If there are 3000 people who need tickets, and  only1000 tickets available, the curtailment of scalpers won’t make such a big difference.

I personally believe the name imprinted system will end up alleviating the problem of obtaining tickets. The reason is as follows.

My home is in Wuhan, and I work in Shanghai. Every year I go home for New Year’s. Those who make up the greater proportion of travelers during the spring rush are temporary workers like me. I usually go home on the 29th of the 12th lunar month, and have someone from my household buy a ticket for me to return to Shanghai on the lunar 6th day after the New Year. As far as I know, there are nine persons in my factory who do the same.

Now comes the tragedy. This year, the newspaper reports that all trains leaving Wuhan, from 2-5 (the third day of the New Year) to 2-27, will be subject to the imprinted name ticket system. Tickets will be sold ten days in advance — no sooner.

My family members cannot buy a ticket  back to Shanghai for me, since they do not have my identity card. To buy this return ticket for the 6th day of the New Year –which is 2-8 — 10 days in advance, I would have to buy it on 1-30. Since I normally arrive back home on 2-2 (the day before New Years), this is not possible. I thought of trying to order the ticket by phone, but since so few tickets are available by this method, there really is no hope. The only thing I could do,  after I get home on 2-2 (New Years eve), would be to go directly to the station and line up for the whole night, in order to buy a ticket on New Year’s day to go back to Shanghai ten days hence.  Thinking how angry the boss would be, and how much would be deducted from my already meagre salary for these extra days of vacation I would need, I came to the difficult decision. I simply would not go home for New Year’s.

Of the other eight people in my factory besides me that I know about,  two also decided not to return home One decided to go by plane, and  the other five decided to endure the bosses outrage and salary deduction and come back a few days late.

Therefore, out of nine, four did not go by train, and the five who did were forced to change their plans and not travel on the peak days. There are of course many, many more people like us. Because many of these must make these sorts of choices, one can surmise the problem of obtaining tickets is to a certain extent made less difficult.

From → Uncategorized

One Comment

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. konjaku

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: