BEIJING - Train passengers are welcoming the authorities' plan to sell train tickets online but remain concerned that the system will not be that user-friendly.
Tickets for Z nonstop express trains will go on sale online nationwide on Sunday, and sales for the T express trains will begin on Dec 10, the Ministry of Railways said on Thursday.
Passengers can log on at www.12306.cn, the ministry's official online ticket-booking website, to buy train tickets.
The website began to sell train tickets online in June, but only for high-speed trains like the G and D fast trains, and the C intercity express trains.
More passengers have shifted from buying tickets at railway stations and ticket outlets to telephone and online bookings, which eliminates the aggravation of waiting in line and may also help curb ticket scalping.
Zhang Qian, a 26-year-old Beijing resident, said she is very happy to know tickets for more trains will be available online.
Zhang, who works in Beijing, said the new move would let her to book train tickets home with only one click of the mouse at home.
Compared with the better equipped but more expensive high-speed trains, Z and T trains run at a top speed of 160 kilometers an hour, much slower than the high-speed train, are usually air-conditioned and equipped with soft sleepers.
Liu Rui, a 27-year-old student at Tsinghua University, said online purchase is better than making phone reservation. Phone service has long been provided by the railway ministry but usually takes a lot longer.
"It is clearer and more interactive to submit your request online," he said.
But he still uses the hotline because it allows him to book a seat on slow trains, which cannot be ticketed online as yet.
The People's Daily reported earlier that railway minister Sheng Guangzu said all trains, including the slow trains, will have tickets sold online by the end of this year.
However, foreigners may find it hard to use the service as the online purchase website is only in Chinese.
"I know the website but I seldom use the service. My Chinese is not good enough," said Peter Baldas, a 25-year-old Australian who has been living in China for nearly two years and works at a Beijing-based education organization.
"The worst thing about buying a train ticket in China is queuing up," he said.
Baldas said he can only buy tickets after queuing a long time in front of the ticket windows.
"For me, it is hard to have a stress-free holiday because the queue is always long."
He also feels there are other instances of "unequal treatment".
"Like on the Beijing-Tianjin high-speed rail, the ticket machines only accept a Chinese ID card for a purchase, but foreigners with passports have to go and wait in a long line," he said.
"I think it is a good idea to have more train tickets sold online," he said.
"But it would be perfect if the service can be extended to international passengers."