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Campaign targets train ticket brokers
By Xiao Ma (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-26 06:31

The Ministry of Railways has launched a special campaign to crack down on train ticket brokers who demand a price higher than face value from passengers. Dubbed a war between "cat and mouse," 2,110 such speculators had been netted in by Tuesday.

Thousands of Chinese passengers wait to board a train in Nanjing January 23, 2006. China's passenger flow will hit two billion trips during the 2006 Spring Festival holiday, the National Development and Reform Commission predicted. [Reuters]

Jiang Zhanlin, director of the ministry's Public Security Bureau, said since December 20 last year, the ministry has set up the "Blue Shield Action" headquarters to help railway police nationwide find and punish ticket "sharks."

The drive is to last until February 22 when the Spring Festival travel season ends.

In an interview with the Beijing-based China Youth Daily, he said the campaign, which is the largest ever of its kind, is covering all the railway stations. The ministry has mobilized railway police and even their kitchen staff to conduct 160,000 spot checks.

During this year's 40-day-long Spring Festival travel season, the mainland's passenger flow is expected to hit 2.042 billion individual trips, up 3.1 per cent from the previous year.

Jiang said the campaign stands out in four ways:

The longest ever 63 days, which started 23 days ahead of the Spring Festival travel season;

An overall arrangement emphasizing railway stations and trains in all areas, unlike the previous crackdown that focused only on Beijing in North China, Guangzhou in South China, Chengdu and Chongqing in Southwest China;

Expanded investigation spheres. Railway police are targeting all spots where a ticket tout appears.

Chinese migrant workers carry their belongings to board a train in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province January 23, 2006. [Reuters]

Seeking Clues From Passengers

He said the railway police have conducted nationwide passenger surveys, and found 7,180 tips on the whereabouts of the ticket brokers, which helped catch the suspects. "We want to help the passengers in a genuine way," he added.

Spot checks at the Beijing Railway Station showed that ticket "sharks" are no longer inside the subway near the station or near the subway's entries and exits, as they were in past years, Jiang said.

"The final few days before the Spring Festival mark the most rampant period for ticket speculators, because they will suffer a financial loss if the tickets were not sold out," Jiang said.

"Frankly speaking, even our kitchen staff are being mobilized in the war to catch ticket brokers," Jiang said.

However, Jiang said it is impossible for the railway police to completely get rid of the railway ticket brokers, because a loophole is formed between the passengers' demand and the available space on the train. Huge profits are also a big attraction, he said.

"The ultimate way out for the railway is to increase the space on the trains to accommodate everyone," Jiang said, adding that "when that happens, the brokers will die out naturally." 

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