Skip to content

Spring Rush 2013: a flood of returned tickets

March 5, 2013

Spring Rush 2013

konjaku: Examining the spring rush, when migrant workers and members of the floating population return home en masse for the New Year holiday, is one way to comprehend the vastness of the population shift and the inability of social services to keep up with it. In previous years there was discussion, and promises from the railway, that at some point there would be enough trains running to accommodate the passengers, who up to now have suffered from the “insufficiency of transport capacity.”

Previous posts on the spring rush:

Because it is hard to get a ticket, there are ticket scalpers, who promise to get a ticket for you. In 2010 the railways initiated an “imprinted-name ticket system” in an attempt to do away with scalpers. Now a passenger needed a proof of identity to buy a ticket, and received a ticket with their name and identification number printed on the face. In  theory, such tickets could not be transferred to other people and resold. This system in practice created a new set of demands and expectations.

In 2013 the promise to eventually provide enough transport capacity seems replaced by a resignation that it is unlikely to ever happen. On the other hand, the railways have introduced measures that ought to make things easier for passengers. They lengthened the period of advance ticket sales, and reduced the service charge for returning tickets. It is also easier to order tickets on the internet. The consequences of these changes are detailed below.

The service charge for returned tickets drops from 20% to 5%, leading to travelers buying many tickets in advance at the “lower rate”


Reporter: Liu Xiaoxu

As is often said about the spring rush, “a single ticket is hard to seek,” so why are there suddenly many passengers with tickets in hand going back to return them? Yesterday, this reporter went to the Guangzhou railway station, and found many people returning tickets. Each one had a different reason, the stories they told were of many kinds.

At the returning ticket window there was a long line, at the selling ticket window few people. The second day of spring rush, the large Guangzhou railway stations are processing each day over 8500 ticket returns. Guangzhou Railway Station is processing over 4000 returns, 30% more than on normal days. The majority are standing room only tickets for long distance destinations to the north. Most of those returning tickets are young people. At an advanced date they rushed to grab tickets at the “low rate.” Because the time of their vacation was not yet determined,  they bought a lot of tickets [for different days], and the ones they don’t need they are returning.

Yesterday at Guangzhou railway station there were almost 20 return ticket windows, and 10 or more people in line at each one. the same scene at Guangzhou East station. The people in these lines sighed, “now returning tickets is harder than buying tickets.”

There are two reasons why so many people are running to return tickets: because the service charge to return has been lowered, and because the period for advance ticket sales was extended 20  days. Since the railway ministry lowered the service charge down to 5% in 2011, in some instances the cost to return could be as little as 2 yuan. For the cost of returning one ticket, one could now return four. This made it possible for more of the “ticket hoarding tribe” to buy any number as spares, to reserve for possible later use.

Guangzhou railway group says, passengers who have not yet bought tickets can seize the opportunity. Yesterday at 6 PM, this reporter found there was still small amounts of tickets available on north bound train lines.

The media reports that rush to return railway tickets stems from indeterminate vacation times and snapping up lower rate tickets in advance

2013-01-31 source Jinghua Times

As this paper reported (reporter Liu Xiaoxu), there is an unceasing flood to return railway tickets during Spring Rush, a time when tickets are usually hard to get. In the Beijing area some 10,000 tickets are being returned on average every day. As this reporter discovered, because of the “low rate,” that is, the reduced service charge for ticket returns, travelers are buying tickets  for multiple dates before their vacation time is settled, and returning the tickets they don’t need.

Yesterday morning, at the temporary ticket office [set up for spring rush] on the station west side, there were 10 windows for returning tickets open, and about 300 people in line to return.

A Ms Liu said, before spring rush she purchased online three sets of two tickets: one soft berth ticket from Beijing to Shenyang north station,  then one from Shenyang north station to Harbin. She purchased three sets to be sure she would be able to return home on at least one of the dates chosen. After she purchased her first set of tickets, she decided she wasn’t happy with them. It meant changing trains once, then taking a commuter bus for several hours, arriving at her destination after midnight. Therefore she continued to search for tickets on the web and buy. Two days ago, she finally chose the most convenient tickets. Yesterday she returned one set, she was back today to return the other pair.

A passenger named Ms Huang said she and fellow villagers, using the internet,  managed to purchase 4 tickets without seats on the L93 from Beijing to Huangchuan in Henan. In previous years she stood in line to buy hard seat tickets, but felt it would be utterly futile this year, because of the spread of internet  and phone advance sales. Having these tickets, Ms Huang was now assured that she would be able to go home, but since the trip is almost 13 hours long, with tickets in hand she began looking for something better.

Several days ago, Mrs Huang discovered during a 40 minute conversation with the ticket office over the phone, that there were still hard seat tickets available on a certain non-express train(1907) that ended its run at Huangchuan [instead of going further to Nanchang, its regular route]. She bought four tickets on that train, and now she wanted to return the standing room only tickets she had previously purchased.

Passenger Ms Wang is going to Ji’ning in Shandong. Previously she ordered hard seat tickets for the date of 2-05 on the net for the 2071 train,  a journey of 10 hours. But, five days ago, she found ut that she would be able to go home sooner than she thought. Also, going by the 2071 train takes a long time. Therefore, using the net, without any difficulty she was able to buy a ticket on the high speed rail train going from Beijing to Qufu for today (1-31). “Since I’m leaving early, I can return the tickets I previously bought.”

This reporter spent an hour and a half at the station interviewing more than 20 people. For almost all, the reason for return is that they bought tickets in advance before knowing the exact dates of their vacation schedule. Once they found out, they purchased more convenient tickets and wished to return the older ones.

A specialist comments

China Engineering College Professor Wang Mengshu believes the basic cause for the wave of return tickets, lies in the fact that the period of spring rush is very short, the volume of travellers in great, and tickets are scarce. Restrictions on ordering tickets by phone or via the internet have eased, and returning tickets does not cost as much. However, this “wave” of returns is not that unusual, “it happened before, it just wasn’t as obvious.”

Wang Mengshu  thinks the timing of the spring holiday is irrational — it should be lengthened. Then we wouldn’t have this mad rush to buy too few tickets, leading to people buying many different tickets and returning them, which is hard for the railways to deal with. The railway supply volume is sufficient to meet demand in ordinary times, for instance, to serve the 220,000 persons every day going from Beijing to Shanghai. It is only during Spring Rush that it is overwhelmed. It is probably not possible to enlarge the passenger volume just during this period.


Name imprinted tickets, if lost, cannot be returned –leading to challenges –the rush to return tickets intensifies

2013-02-03 source Jinghua Times

As this paper reported yesterday, as many as 10,000 railway tickets are being returned daily, by people who purchased a batch of tickets in advance, the so-called “ticket hoarding tribe.” But because of the volume of tickets held by the tribe,  returning them is becoming increasingly troublesome. They want to return tickets they no longer need, but they find that unexpectedly they have lost them. What is true for the ticket hoarding tribe is true for all other travelers. Those who have lost their name-imprinted tickets can only get a refund if they buy the same ticket over again.

Mr Kang, in Beijing as a temporary worker,  originally planned to return to Hunan on 2-03, therefore he bought a berth ticket in the T61 to Hunan Lengshuijiang east station. But then he found out he was needed longer at his job. This time, he bought a berth ticket for 2-06. He wanted to return his 2-03 ticket, but as he was going to Beijing station to do so he lost it. “Because I bought it as a name-imprinted ticket, giving my full name and identification number, with all the information in hand, they should be able to provide me with a replacement ticket which I can then go and return. ” Mr Kang didn’t mind paying a service charge, since it wouldn’t be too much.

However, the station worker stated that if one loses a name-imprinted ticket, one must first buy a new ticket, and use that to ride the train. Once the trip is completed, the person, bearing proof, including the second ticket purchased, will only then be able to return the [first] ticket for refund. In other words,  only if Mr Kang rode on the T61 train, on the date and route he originally chose, would he be able to get a copy of his [original] ticket to return.

“Before the name-imprinted ticket system, if you lost a ticket, you just forgot about it, that was it. But with the name-imprinted ticket it is like taking a plane –if you misplace your boarding pass, they can just print a new one.” Mr Kang cannot comprehend why the railways are making this stipulation.

Actually, this procedure for replacing a lost ticket was put into effect a little over a year ago. Before this, if you lost an imprinted name ticket you were unable to do anything to get a replacement. In the past,  this led to heated disputes.

The stipulations to replace a lost ticket are: if a passenger buys a name imprinted ticket and then loses it, they must appear at the ticket buying window not later than 20 minutes before the deadline for entering the train platform for the journey as printed on the ticket face. At the window they must go through the procedure of reporting a lost ticket,  showing their proof of identity, and giving the date of trip and destination. The passenger must buy a new ticket with the same details as the original, with the same coach and seat number. When the new ticket is purchased, the original ticket will be cancelled and be no longer valid. After that, the passenger must board the train using the new ticket, and inform the railway staff in the train of the situation. Before arriving at the destination, the train conductor will verify that the passenger has indeed used the new ticket to ride in the assigned seat, and write out a voucher which the passenger can use as proof to replace the value of the lost ticket. Within 24 hours after disembarking, carrying the voucher,  new [just used] ticket and proof of identity, the passenger can go to the returns window and get a refund for the original ticket.

This procedure of having to buy a new ticket before getting a refund causes problems.

Different viewpoints:

A person in the railway ministry who did not wish to give his name said, this is to prevent one person from buying many tickets, since there is no restriction on buying tickets for different dates and times. “This is only to prevent scalpers holding one proof of identity from buying many tickets. As for the ticket hoarding tribe, who buy a number of tickets and only want to use the one that is most convenient to them, this impedes our functioning. These people try and return tickets just before they depart, when it is too late, and the train they bought the original ticket for has already run. They are just wasting precious transport capacity.”

This person believes that since the name-imprinted ticket system is already in place, with a few refinements to the system, returning a ticket could be made quite easy.  As far as the technology is concerned, it would not be difficult. However, the ticket system as it currently exists is just fine –rather, it is more urgent to restrain the habits of the ticket hoarding tribe, who expect to be able to return multiple tickets.

There are many passengers like Mr Kang, who end up buying two or more railway tickets before they travel. The spring rush this year involves two new phenomena: the “ticket hoarding tribe,” which came into being because this year one can buy tickets 20 days in advance, and the “return tickets tide,” in which this same group returns all the excess tickets they bought up in a panic and now no longer need. The root cause of this is, as in all previous years, the lack of transport capacity. There are not enough tickets to meet demand, and passengers must resort to these behaviors because they can not count on smoothly and easily getting a ticket. That the cost of returning a ticket was decreased, only fanned the flames. As someone said, “If you buy more than one ticket, going and coming here and there, somehow it is easy to lose one. And the one you lose just happens to be the one you want to return.” Here is Mr Kang’s situation in a nutshell. “If I have to spend the same amount again in order to refund the lost ticket, then the whole idea of the refund no longer makes any sense,” said Mr Kang.

A lawyer’s perspective

Lawyer Yin Fuqiang strongly believes that a lost ticket should be refunded. He believes that the ticket is just the form in which the contract between the passenger and the railway is expressed. If the ticket is lost, that does not nullify the money which has already been paid to cement the contract. Since the railway has already instituted the name-imprinted ticket system, with a database containing the purchaser’s information [identity and purchase details], the railway should have no problem directly replacing or refunding a lost ticket.

An industry spokesperson has said that the current method, in which the traveller who lost the ticket is required to buy a new ticket and travel according to the details of the original purchase, is to prevent someone else from picking up the ticket and using it without authorization. But, since the current name imprinted ticket system involves a rigorous check and verification of the traveller’s identity when they enter the station, this sort of case must be very rare to non-existent.

The media has previously reported that the railway telephone ticket ordering system has set up a blacklist, to take away the ability to buy tickets from those individuals who have ordered tickets multiple times. After this story came out, the railway denied that there was such a blacklist. Netizens believe there is a real possibility it does exist.

Some suggestions

Some passengers believe that the system for returning tickets could be more elastic. Those who bought multiple tickets could be made subject to an increased service charge, 20% the value of the ticket. This would cause people to think twice before buying multiple tickets.

Some passengers believe people should only be able to buy one ticket with one identity card. This is restrictive, but would only be a special measure to meet the demands of this unique time period of the spring rush.

This reporter: Han Xu

Name-imprinted tickets cannot be returned or refunded if involving a different location

If you can buy a name-imprinted railway ticket throughout the country, how is it you cannot return one anywhere in the country? Many travellers cannot understand the reason for this, and again the name-imprinted ticket system is called into question. Voices are calling for the railways to go a step further in refining and improving the system.

Yesterday, this reporter went to the Beijing Station return ticket windows, and every window was overcrowded. Besides the “ticket hoarding tribe” seeking a refund for their many superfluous tickets, there were a few travelers who had in their hands tickets which they had not bought in Beijing, and they were finding they were unable to get a refund for them.

Mr Zhang was having this difficulty. His native place was Guangzhou. This year the advance sales started earlier,  and it happened that on  that first day, he was in Shenyang on business. In Shenyang, “I couldn’t get non-stop tickets, so I bought tickets from Beijing to Zhengzhou, then from Zhengzhou to Guangzhou.” As the New Year holiday approached, Mr Zhang was ready to travel using the tickets he had purchased.

But then, his plans changed, and Mr Zhang had to stay in Beijing over the holiday. He no longer needed the tickets, but “customer service says there is a problem with refunding these tickets. They say, the Beijing –Zhengzhou ticket can be returned, because it starts from Beijing, but for the Zhengzhou –Guangzhou ticket, I can only return it if I go to the station the ticket starts from [Zhengzhou] or the station listed on the ticket as the place of sale [Shenyang].” Mr Zhang felt helpless, holding a 300 yuan ticket, he worried.

In regards to this, this reporter called the telephone ordering line and asked, If I want to return a ticket for refund, but the departing station on the ticket is not Beijing, and if I did not purchase the ticket in Beijing, I can’t return it? Why is it I can buy a name imprinted ticket anywhere in the country, but can’t return it?

“The fact that you can buy a ticket anywhere in the country does not mean you can return it anywhere!” was the answer of the railway staff member.

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

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: