Last month China's Ministry of Railways (MOR) announced that a new pilot programthat allows passengers to reserve tickets 28 days in advance of the departure date haslaunched in Shanghai. The move is aiming to ease the difficulty of getting a railwayticket during the national holiday, or Golden Week, in China.
MOR also said they will launch a new software product available for smartphone userslater 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 theNational Day holiday and this was just the right time for me to try this new method ofpurchasing. However, it once again disappointed me.
To log on to the website, www.12306.cn, the official booking website of MOR, took mehalf an hour, and after countless tries, I finally was able to see the home page of thepurchase page. The whole searching and purchasing process was very slow. When Ieventually 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 amessage: failure to complete the payment. I was devastated.
And I was definitely not the only guy with no luck. The Oriental Morning Post reportedthat many passengers who tried to purchase the tickets for the National Day holidayperiod encountered similar problems. The most common complaints included finding ithard 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 theonline purchase system in order to ease the burden caused by heavy visitor traffic. Andit is only activated for the most popular routes. During Chinese Spring Festival bookingpeak 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 newprogram is obviously far from satisfactory.
In China, MOR has always had a negative image due to its monopoly position in therailway system in China. But we should agree the railway authority has been trying hardto improve its service quality in terms of ticket purchasing, shortening journey times andbuilding high speed railways across the country.
But the reality and practice proved MOR still has a long way to go to improve its serviceto match passengers' expectations.
On the other hand, I think us passengers should be more patient and give some timeand understanding for MOR to improve their work. Rome was not built in one day and aperfect purchasing system can't be either.