Express passenger claims off the rails

Express passenger claims off the rails

Few passengers occupy the carriage of a train on the Shanghai-Nanjing express line in this file photo. Li Junfeng / for China Daily


SHANGHAI - While the low occupancy of express trains from Shanghai to Nanjing has attracted widespread attention online, rail authorities rebutted criticism that high ticket prices had driven passengers away.

As many as 2.82 million passengers took express trains between Shanghai and Nanjing from July 1 to July 21, according to Tao Liping, a spokesman for the Shanghai railway bureau.

Tao said on Thursday that an average of 134,000 passengers traveled daily on the express service during the period, which pushed its occupancy rate up 120 percent.

There have been complaints about the Shanghai-Nanjing express train service since operations began on July 1.

Local media reported passengers abandoning the express rail service in favor of traveling by coach due to the "unaffordable ticket price".

Several coach stations confirmed that they have had an increasing flow of passengers for the Shanghai-Nanjing route since July 1.

Travel agencies also said most tourists from Nanjing to Shanghai chose to travel by coach because it was cheaper.

A second-class ticket for the Shanghai-Nanjing express train costs 146 yuan ($21), while a long-distance coach ticket costs less than 90 yuan.

A photo of a passenger sitting alone in an almost empty carriage appeared on several news websites on Thursday morning. It was then reposted on other Internet forums, where it triggered heated criticism.

According to a discussion board on QQ.com, more than 2,000 readers left comments by 4 pm on Thursday. Most of them expressed sentiments to the effect that the price of a ticket for the Shanghai-Nanjing express train was "unreasonable" and "grabbing money".

"A ticket for the express train is twice as expensive as that of a high-speed train (CHR), without saving any time," said Fu Tingting, a 37-year-old passenger who frequently travels between Shanghai and Nanjing.

As many as 25 round-trips on the Shanghai-Nanjing line were cancelled from July 1, when the express service began, according to the Shanghai railway bureau.

In response to the claim that high ticket prices for express trains have driven passengers away, a clerk at the Shanghai railway bureau, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said most tickets on express trains are sold two or three days before the departure date. He also denied the claim that express trains are not poplar due to the high price of tickets.

"We have noticed the picture that shows only one passenger sitting in a carriage of an express train," the clerk said. "We believe this is an isolated incident that diverges from the statistics we have gathered."

(China Daily , July 23, 2010)