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Metro Beijing

Yang's lawsuit on the right track

Updated: 2011-05-30 07:55
By Todd Balazovic ( China Daily)

Yang's lawsuit on the right track

Rail commuter's complaint over sale of dining car tickets is petty, but equally valid

Any rail rider who has been stuck with a substandard train ticket can tell you grisly tales about their journey through what can be considered the third layer of commuter hell.

Already cramped cars get packed to the point of bursting as passengers struggle shoulder-to-shoulder to scavenge as much personal space as they can. Temperatures rise and sweat pours as the combined body heat of commuters give the constricted compartment oven-like qualities.

It was the vexatious conditions of a sub-standard rail seat that pushed commuter Yang Jinzhu to crusade against the sales of standing and dining car tickets last week.

In a court battle that pitted the odds against him, Yang filed his case against the Ministry of Railways after an overnight commute in a dining car that left a sour taste in his mouth.

After paying the full 301-yuan for a second-class ticket on the bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai last November, he and 40 other rail riders embarked on the eight-hour journey only to find out after boarding the train that they were seated in the dining car and shown to a pile of spare sheets.

A complaint to the train staff resulted in Yang being told to take up his issue with the ministry. Seven months later, having spent more than 6,000 yuan out of his own pocket, that's exactly what he did.

While few people possess the sheer stubbornness to take the steps Yang has, his efforts bring up a good point.

In addition to creating safer conditions for riders, the ban or regulation of standing and dining car sales would help bring a better sense of order to China's most crucial transportation system.

It's no secret. China's rail system is one of the most advanced in the world, with almost each month bringing announcements of the latest luxury line. But even a five-star hotel room has the feel of a shoddy college dormitory when overstuffed with bunk buddies.

Yang's case with the ministry revealed that the choice of dining car and standing sales is currently left up to stations. However, with a majority of the train lines spanning the borders of several provinces, shouldn't this be a nationwide collaboration?

And it's not just those people pushed into makeshift seating that are suffering from the ill-advised practice. Standing and dining ticket sales taint the trip not only for those forced into the cramped conditions, but also for those who paid extra for the luxury of added leg room.

Of course, I can understand the occasional commuting emergency where overselling the number of tickets on a train can come to someone's rescue - I've had more than one occasion where my only option was a standing journey of at least 10 hours.

Yet, leaving the sales of these tickets up to stations, where they can easily be lured by the few thousand yuan extra earned from excessive sales, the service stops being about the customer and starts becoming the bottom line.

The author is a reporter at METRO. To comment, e-mail The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of METRO.


(China Daily 05/30/2011)