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A letter to the Ministry of Railway

By Zhang Xi (Chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2010-02-08 10:41
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Dear officers,

I'd like to show my homage to your hard work to handle the Spring Festival transport, which is seen as the world's largest annual human migration. I appreciate your efforts to assist with some expected 2.5 billion journeys this year.

Therefore you must feel chagrined at travelers' criticism and complaints. But please don't be upset, I can lend you my shoulder and let's analyze together why they are dissatisfied with some of your work.

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A letter to the Ministry of Railway Zhengzhou-Xi'an high-speed train starts operation
A letter to the Ministry of Railway Mystery of train tickets
A letter to the Ministry of Railway The pain to get a train ticket

One annoying event was in Dongguan railway station on January 15, when roughly 1,500 passengers, mostly migrant workers, were supposed to board on a train within four minutes. It's a mission impossible but those hurried passengers who had separated with their parents and children for a year or even longer couldn't tolerate to wait to queue. Even being one-minute late may cause them to miss the train. Some then rushed to get into the carriages through the windows. It's too difficult to squeeze their luggage and themselves into small windows so some station staffers gave them a helping hand. This is very commonly seen in stations during festivals, but this time, a group of online photos recording the then situation "shamed" your subordinate bureau, the Guangdong Railway Group, who later sacked station's director and Party chief for poor management.

Dongguan is the preferred destination for migrant workers since 1990s. Tens of thousands of them trek home annually before the spring festival. So it's not difficult to imagine what will happen when they rushed to a train that was scheduled to stop for only four minutes. So sorry, even though I know you're chagrined, I still need to ask, why didn't the Group allow a longer stay after knowing there'll be such a large number of passengers waiting?

A big contrary to it is an almost empty train running from Shenzhen to Hankou in January 30 with nearly 75 percent vacant seats. People were wondering how come a train from a city possessing a huge number of migrant workers wasn't as full as in previous spring festival transport peaks. Then you gave two explanations: most ticket holders weren't able to ask for a leave from work, and the group tickets were cancelled.

I don't want to dispute your explanations, but I have to admit that you should think about solutions in advance, in that way, people wouldn't criticize you while linking this event with that in Dongguan station. I'm sure you, like all of us, pity for the wasted capacity as well as those anxious people who're desperate to get home but couldn't get tickets.

I know you never stopped efforts to change the status quo of the railway and the 110 billion yuan Wuhan-Guangzhou railway is a good example. You didn't hesitate to build the world’s fastest train covering 1,068 km in just three hours offer convenient to passengers. But you may not consider that with 780 yuan for the first-class coach and 490 yuan for the second-class, only those with decent incomes are able to enjoy it. Most passengers, especially migrant worker who have saved money for one year, would rather choose other cheap trains to get home.

Meanwhile, people misunderstood your act of stopping 13 affordable ordinary trains between the two cities. Your good intentions to avoid the excess capacity made them think it was to give way to the bullet train to force them to buy the expensive tickets.

Fortunately, you quickly realized the problem and re-operated some of those trains. I applaud for your action and sincerely hope that you’ll make more good decisions to balance capacity in different places. For example, you may use the same amount of money to build more railways rather than operating an expensive train.

I hope you a happy new year and Chinese train transport system a good future, and every person going to travel by train, including me, can be on our way home smoothly.

Best regards,

A passenger eager to be home by train