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Railway authorities said the online ticketing system has been improved and can better handle the huge number of requests before the coming Spring Festival rush, after the costly website's frequent failures aroused wide criticism during last rush period.
Some 224.5 million trips by train are expected to be made during this year's 40-day Spring Festival rush between Jan 26 and March 6 this year, 4.6 percent more than the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Railways.
Spring Festival rush is the biggest temporary human migration in the world. Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, is the most important traditional festival for the Chinese and an occasion for family reunions. This year's Spring Festival begins on Feb 10.
The ministry said in a statement released on Tuesday that the website, 12306.cn, is better prepared for the huge traffic this year.
"The website has gone through pressure tests carried out by a third party, and the test results showed the website, which has been improved in various ways, is now able to handle a large quantity of requests to buy tickets online," an anonymous senior official with the ministry's transport bureau said in the statement on Tuesday.
Available tickets are now released online 10 times a day, instead of four times like last year, to ease pressure on the website. Sales of tickets also begin 20 days ahead of time, instead of 12 days, so that passengers can turn to other means of transportation if they fail to secure a train ticket, he said.
The ministry declined on Tuesday to disclose the website's maximum ability to handle online traffic. But the official said that the website handled a maximum of 1.16 million users at the same time on Jan 4 and sold 3 million train tickets, accounting for 40 percent of the total 7.63 million tickets sold that day.
The online ticketing system began to sell all kinds of train tickets at the end of 2011, shortly before the Spring Festival rush in 2012. The website broke down under the enormous traffic, and many netizens complained they could not even log onto the website.
The ministry was blamed for not having the website go through traffic pressure tests before putting it into use. It was also criticized for having its subsidiary institute instead of companies outside of its system develop the expensive online ticketing system.
Lawyer Dong Zhengwei filed a lawsuit against the ministry after his request for information about the bidding process was declined by the ministry. The lawsuit was accepted by a court in Beijing on Monday, Beijing Times reported.
The ministry declined to comment on the case on Tuesday.
So far, the ticketing website has been operating normally in the past two days, the unidentified official said.
While some netizens posted photos of train tickets they have successfully bought, others complained that they spent hours for nothing.
"It is still too early to tell how the online ticketing system has improved, as tickets for the busiest days are not available for sale yet. I just hope I can be as lucky as last year to get two tickets to my home," said Wang Guyang in Beijing, who wants to buy tickets to Dandong, Liaoning province.
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