BEIJING - Sales of all bullet train tickets will go online at the end of this month, and passengers will pay lower fees if they refund tickets, the railway ministry said.
Following sales of tickets online since July for the Beijing-Shanghai and Beijing-Tianjin high-speed trains, the Ministry of Railways said on Thursday that tickets for all bullet trains will be sold at 12306.cn.
Starting Tuesday, passengers can make a few clicks and buy tickets online for the Zhengzhou-Xi'an and Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railways.
Then from next Thursday, six more high-speed railways will go online, including Shanghai-Nanjing, Shanghai-Hangzhou and Guangzhou-Shenzhen.
All bullet train tickets will be available online from Sept 30, the ministry said.
Passengers can dial the number 12306 or go to the website to inquire about the train timetable, ticket prices and the number of remaining tickets, but so far the hotline has no service in English.
Meanwhile, the ministry ruled that it will charge only a 5-percent refund fee starting Sept 25.
In the past, passengers could only get 80 percent of the ticket price back.
The measures will improve the quality of passenger railway service, the ministry said in a news release on Thursday.
Netizens mostly applauded the measures on Thursday, but worried that lower refund fees could be good news for scalpers, who will pay less if they fail to find a buyer.
Some passengers, however, believed the ministry could do more.
"For the railway ministry that monopolizes the rail industry, it has the social responsibility to reduce fees. The ministry could do better, such as setting a fixed fee instead of a fixed percentage," said Wang Lingyun, 23, an employee at a German company in Shanghai.
Netizens pointed out other rules that need to be abolished, including refusing to refund tickets for trains that have departed, and only refunding tickets where they were sold.
They also complained that the online system is not consumer friendly, suggesting the ministry improve it.
Ticket agencies whose income partly comes from commissions said they are not worried about the online sales.
A woman surnamed Tang at a ticket agency in Beijing said her clients are all old customers from nearby communities, and it is easier for them to buy tickets from agencies instead of the Internet.
Jin Huiyu contributed to this story.