Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Real-name ticket system rides into storm

By Wu Yixue (China Daily) Updated: 2011-06-09 07:42

The country's railway authority has encountered a public outcry, instead of the thunderous applause it expected, at the very beginning of its move to practice a real-name purchasing system for high-speed train tickets.

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In a self-acclaimed effort to improve railway security and eliminate ticket scalping, the Ministry of Railways began selling real-name tickets nationwide from June 1 for its trains classified with the letters C, D and G. These are trains that operate at speeds of more than 200 kilometers per hour.

The real-name system demands passengers use one of 23 types of valid identification, including residence permits and passports, when buying tickets for one of these trains.

The real-name ticket-buying system, if smoothly operated, would symbolize a positive step by the "Big Railway Brother" - a popular name for the Ministry of Railways because of its dominant status in the country's transport system - toward improving its long-controversial rail services.

The public has long been calling for a real-name ticket-buying system, especially for the annual Spring Festival period when ordinary Chinese people face an unprecedented challenge getting a train ticket so they can return home for their traditional family reunion.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the country is already technologically equipped to operate a real-name ticket system for the railways. From a technical perspective, it should be no more difficult than purchasing a real-name ticket for a flight.

However, the railway authority has from the beginning hurled itself into a maelstrom of public controversy.

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