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Expats fall victim to train ticket inspectors

2014-03-10 09:03 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

Stricter identity checks for train tickets combined with online ticket-buying site that cannot process international nomenclatures have been creating chaos and frustration for foreign travelers on the Chinese mainland.

Since March 1 when China Railway Corporation launched stricter measures to check ticket information with identity cards or passports, foreign names have been falling victim to overly officious officials, say travelers and their agents.

The new policy demands all personal information on the ticket be in exact accordance with a passenger's identity card or passport.

Helen Xie, a Beijing-based Australian travel agent for China DIY travel, said she had returned 100 tickets and purchased new ones in the last week after her clients were rejected at railway stations.

"For example, one of my clients is named Martin Jeffery Thomas James," Xie told the Global Times, "but he had to write his name out in full with no spaces in between.

"Otherwise he could not pass inspection by staff at stations, which is really stupid," Xie said.

Other foreign passengers have been declined as their names are in reverse order compared to their passport name.

Names containing punctuation cause particular problems as they cannot be typed online when passengers fill in their personal information for buying a rail ticket. Inspectors then notice the discrepancy between the online and offline name and reject the ticket.

"They will not accept a name without a hyphen," Louis-Pierre P Lepage, a Canadian tourist, told the Global Times via e-mail. "They told me numerous times that I had to go fix it on the website. They were useless and unhelpful."

There was no need to type out symbols like hyphens, a receptionist at the official website for booking train tickets told the Global Times on Sunday.

"You just need to register your name in conformity with your passport. If it is longer than 30 characters, you can just cut off the rest," said the receptionist, who refused to be named or comment on specific ticket denials.

Such incidents demonstrated flaws in the train ticket website design as the software designers did not sufficiently take into account foreign identification or names, Zhang Zhuting, a law professor at the Transport Management Institute at the Ministry of Transport.

"We have the capacity and we should fix the problem as it works fine with civil aviation system," Zhang told the Global Times.

Some railway staff are unfamiliar with foreign names, Xie said, making them more inflexible.

She suggested expats contact the station's on-duty manager or return the ticket and buy a new one at the ticket booth of the station.

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