China / Society

Help urged for migrant workers buying train tickets

By Qiu Quanlin in Guangzhou ( Updated: 2013-01-16 22:21

Legal experts called for more efficient channels to help migrant workers buy train tickets during the Spring Festival travel rush, after a couple was detained in Guangdong province for helping workers buy train tickets at an extra cost.

Railway police detained the couple on Jan 13 in Foshan, Guangdong, after the police found more than 200 train tickets and 213 ID cards in the couple’s shop.

The couple's full names have not been revealed. The husband is surnamed Zhong, and the wife's surname is Ye.

The train tickets have a total face value of more than 35,000 yuan ($5,600).

Railway police said the couple was detained because they charged an extra 10 yuan ($1.6) for each ticket.

According to railway regulations, anyone selling train tickets who charges more than 5 yuan for each ticket is regarded as ticket-scalping and will face punishment.

The tickets seized by police have been returned to the buyers. But the case has triggered heated debates on the Internet, with many netizens voicing sympathy for the couple.

"I don't think 10 yuan is too much. The charge is acceptable," said Zhang Chunyu, a migrant worker from Chongqing in Southwest China, who said he believes the couple was "just doing a favor".

The travel rush during Spring Festival is considered to be the largest annual migration in China. Tickets can be difficult to purchase, especially for migrant workers.

The Ministry of Railways has encouraged passengers to use the online purchasing channel to buy tickets since last year, but most migrant workers do not know how to buy tickets online, he said.

"Scalpers usually charged at least 100 yuan for one ticket in the past. This couple should not be dealt with as scalpers," he said.

Cheng Weibing, a lawyer with Guangdong Jianxin law firm, agreed that the couple was "helping" migrant workers, most of whom have inadequate access to the Internet and are unable to buy tickets online by themselves.

"But the couple should not challenge the law, as it regulates that people should face criminal punishment if they scalp train tickets or sell them for profit," Cheng said.

Under current regulations, railway authorities control all train tickets.

"The train tickets should be available in a wide, circulating market so that migrant workers will have more accesses to buy tickets," Cheng said.

In response to online critics, local railway police insisted that purchasing tickets from unauthorized agencies is not allowed.

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