|(Illustration: Lu Ting/Global Times)|
Last month China's Ministry of Railways (MOR) announced that a new pilot program that allows passengers to reserve tickets 28 days in advance of the departure date has launched in Shanghai. The move is aiming to ease the difficulty of getting a railway ticket during the national holiday, or Golden Week, in China.
MOR also said they will launch a new software product available for smartphone users later this month to make it easier for passengers to purchase tickets.
It was no doubt good news for me. I was just thinking about planning a trip during the National Day holiday and this was just the right time for me to try this new method of purchasing. However, it once again disappointed me.
To log on to the website, www.12306.cn, the official booking website of MOR, took me half an hour, and after countless tries, I finally was able to see the home page of the purchase page. The whole searching and purchasing process was very slow. When I eventually picked my ticket, the system told me my purchase was in the waiting queue. Before I could pay the money I had to wait approximately 30 minutes.
And the worst was yet to come. When I was finally ready to pay, the system displayed a message: failure to complete the payment. I was devastated.
And I was definitely not the only guy with no luck. The Oriental Morning Post reported that many passengers who tried to purchase the tickets for the National Day holiday period encountered similar problems. The most common complaints included finding it hard to log on to the website, queuing and failure to complete the payment.
According to MOR, the new queuing function was added in the latest upgrade of the online purchase system in order to ease the burden caused by heavy visitor traffic. And it is only activated for the most popular routes. During Chinese Spring Festival booking peak time, the website crashed several times due to the surging visitor volume.
I think although the effort that MOR has made is worth praising, the effect of their new program is obviously far from satisfactory.
In China, MOR has always had a negative image due to its monopoly position in the railway system in China. But we should agree the railway authority has been trying hard to improve its service quality in terms of ticket purchasing, shortening journey times and building high speed railways across the country.
But the reality and practice proved MOR still has a long way to go to improve its service to match passengers' expectations.
On the other hand, I think us passengers should be more patient and give some time and understanding for MOR to improve their work. Rome was not built in one day and a perfect purchasing system can't be either.