CHINA / Regional

Beijing-Lhasa train tickets selling fast
By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-06-29 06:20

Customers yesterday rushed to buy tickets for the first ever train between Beijing and Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Tourists take photos at the monument marking the source of the Yangtze River in Qinghai Province. The railway bridge in the background is part of the Qinghai-Tibet railway line. [China Daily]

Sixty hard sleeper tickets and some hard seat tickets for Saturday's service were sold within 20 minutes after going on sale for the first time at the Beijing Western Railway Station, reported Beijing Evening News yesterday.

Tickets linking Lhasa to other cities have also started to go on sale at local railway stations, but online sales are not yet available, said the Ministry of Railways yesterday.

According to the ministry, tickets for travel between July 2 and 4 will be sold today, and tickets for travel between July 5 and 8 will be available tomorrow. After that passengers will be able to buy tickets 10 days ahead of travel.

Travel agencies have also rushed to capitalize on the new service. At least 10 tour packages, all leaving Beijing for Tibet by train at the beginning of July, are now available.

In fact, unwilling to wait for the ministry's final decisions over ticket fares and operation arrangements, agencies started promoting their tours in early June.

"Every day I receive nearly 200 phone calls inquiring about our rail packages to Tibet," said a hotline operator with the China Railway Travel Service, surnamed Zhao.

With prices now set, the first tour group leaves Beijing on July 2, the earliest date travel agencies could get tickets. Tour prices range between 3,500 and 6,000 yuan (US$438 and 750). The cheapest offer is only half the usual cost of an air package.

"The first tour group leaving on July 2 is almost full," said Zhao Hongyu, a senior manager with the China Youth Travel Service, one of the country's major travel agencies.

The 30-strong group will take the train to Lhasa, stay at three-star hotels, and fly back to Beijing. The 10-day trip costs 5,580 yuan (US$698), about 1,200 yuan (US$150) less than a return air package, said Zhao.

"Passengers can enjoy the scenery of northern Tibet from the carriage, with their bodies gradually adjusting to the plateau's climate. We believe the package has a huge market," she said.

Return rail packages will cost even less.

The lowest offer so far is around 3,500 yuan (US$438). For that passengers spend four days on the train, stay at two-star hotels, and visit Lhasa, Nyingchi and Nam Co Lake, according to the China International Travel Service.

Since the ministry has decided not to run trains between Shanghai and Lhasa for the present, Shanghai people have to pay far more if they want to view the Tibetan scenery by train.

Shanghai Yaji travel agency said its earliest tour group to Tibet, which includes some rail travel, could leave as early as July 16.

The package includes three flights and one section on the train as well as accommodation at three-star hotels. It costs 7,500 yuan (US$938) per person even more than a return air package.

(China Daily 06/29/2006 page2)


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