Business / Train ticket

Price of some high-speed train tickets to be cut

By Xin Dingding in Beijing and Zhou Wenting in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2012-05-09 10:02

Passengers will soon enjoy discounts when buying business class tickets and premium seats on high-speed trains operating on two lines in East China.

Experts said passengers will benefit from a more market-oriented operation of high-speed railways, following the Ministry of Railways' decision to ease its grip over railway management.

The Shanghai Railway Bureau on Monday announced through its Sina Weibo micro blog that business class tickets on high-speed trains on the Shanghai-Nanjing and Shanghai-Hangzhou lines will be reduced by 30 percent between May 18 and June 20.

Tickets for premium seats on the two lines over the same period will be cut by 10 percent.

That means a business class ticket from Shanghai to Nanjing, roughly priced at 438 yuan ($70), will now be available for 307 yuan. A premium seat on the same route costs 263 yuan, and the discounted price will be 237 yuan.

Business class and premium seats account for 2 percent of a high-speed train's total capacity.

The rail bureau said that the policy involves 55 trains running on the Shanghai-Nanjing line and 61 trains on Shanghai-Hangzhou line. Some of the discounts are only available when passengers buy tickets seven to 12 days in advance of the departure date.

The bureau added that the special price policy is subject to change in the future, which will be decided by market demands.

Industry insiders said this is the first time that the country's high-speed railways have given discounts to passengers, despite calls from the public for lower ticket prices in the past couple of years.

Many Web users have posted photos online showing empty compartments on high-speed trains. There have also been people demanding the railway ministry give discounts to frequent riders and students, who used to enjoy cheaper ticket prices on slower trains.

Yang Hao, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, believes that the discounts are now being offered because the Railways Ministry has loosened its grip on daily railway transport organization and management.

"The ministry has finally come to realize what its role should be and made reforms earlier this year," he said.

The ministry now focuses on policymaking and supervision, and local railway bureaus have taken over the job of setting prices as well as the responsibility of railway safety, he said.

"It will become a trend, as other railway bureaus follow Shanghai's lead and make more market-oriented moves in future operations," he said.

But many passengers interviewed on Tuesday said the price reduction may not necessarily make the expensive tickets easy to sell.

"It's only about an hour's ride from Wuxi (in Jiangsu province) to Shanghai. It's common to stand an hour on the subway in Shanghai, so I don't mind standing on the train," said Su Da, 32, a Wuxi native and an apparel retailer, who replenishes her stock from Shanghai every week.

"Some people bought first-class tickets during Spring Festival travel season when all the ones at fair prices were snapped up," she said. "But I've never seen people in the luxurious carriage."

Shi Bin, 54, a manager of a real estate company who travels between Shanghai and Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, every weekend, said he felt comfortable enough in the second-class seats because there are often just several people scattered in a car.

"It's like one passenger owns the seats in three rows," he said.

He and many other netizens called for the railway authority to cut prices on other tickets, too.

"It is a common desire of passengers to buy tickets at a discount. Railway ticket prices have risen sharply in the past decade with the upgrading of trains, but we don't feel the advantage of speed on a short trip with several stops," he said.

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