Chinese Argue Full-Price Standing Room Only Train Tickets Not Fair

Elderly Chinese man holding 100 RMB bill preparing to purchase a train ticket.

Chinese New Year’s, aka Spring Festival, is approaching and many Chinese people are beginning to make arrangements for traveling across the country to return home to spend the most important holiday of the year with their families…

From Sina Weibo:

@思想聚焦: An Appeal for Seat-Less Train Tickets Be Changed to Half Price — China Railways sells an enormous amount of seat-less tickets [standing-room only tickets] every year, and over all this time, seat-less train tickets remain full-price. Seat-less travelers are mostly our migrant working brothers. They, for reasons such as financial circumstance and lack of knowledge, are unable to get tickets with seats of their own. According to the laws of market value, they are unable to enjoy the service that corresponds with their train ticket price, and therefore seat-less train tickets being full price is unreasonable. I recommend that seat-less tickets be made half price! Those friends who support me, pass [reshare/forward] this on! [话筒]

A train ticket in China from Hangzhou to Xi'an, for standing room only, no seat.

A train ticket in China for standing room only, no seat.

At time of translation, this microblog post has been upvoted nearly 100k times, forwarded/reshared over 250k times, and has nearly 30k comments…

Comments from Sina Weibo:

楠木君要当大学霸:

Every time the year comes to an end, there is this kind of brainless microblog post posted up. And this one even drags in “market value”. Can you people have even a bit of basic economic common sense? The microblog poster’s logic is: Migrant workers have a hard time buying tickets, seat-less tickets are miserable, seatless tickets should be half price. First of all, the domestic train ticket prices are already very low as a result of government subsidies. If you don’t believe me, go see other countries. Actually, the reason it is difficult for migrant workers to buy tickets is because of problems with ticket purchasing channels. What use is there of not calling for improvements to [purchasing] channels and instead dragging in this about half price? It can only be said, everything in this society is lacking, except this kind of common sense.

张严博:

I suggest getting rid of seat-less train tickets altogether.

THEArie:

Seat-less tickets being full price is indeed unreasonable. After all, you’ve spent the same amount of money but aren’t able to get the same level of service. However, if we were to implement half-price seat-less tickets, it will also cause waste when there is low passenger volume. Tell me, is it not possible to design a kind of system, that at the time of purchasing tickets, if there are still empty seats, there are no half-price tickets? So that when the seats are full, only then will there be half-price ticket service? Wouldn’t this work?

VIVI维他命:

Sometimes I feel truly sad for those elderly people, who have to go out on their own [to work away from their family/hometowns], when they’re buying tickets. Unable to speak accurate putonghua [Mandarin Chinese], their ears bad, and if they run into an impatient ticket-seller, they are so wronged, having waited in such long lines, and ultimately not successfully getting a ticket. I think they should also set up a special window for elderly 60 years old and above, and then have the train station assign several employees to give assistance to the elderly buying tickets. That way, the great New China can be even more warm and caring.

爱微O宝:

Lower prices for seat-less tickets, and number of tickets should also be limited!

惊世神钩:

I remember the explanation given by the Ministry of Railways last year was that because they are standing on the floor [space] of the hard seat train cars, that’s why it has to be hard seat prices. In response to this, I can only [say] fuck the Ministry of Railways < href="http://www.chinasmack.com/glossary#MLGB" target="_blank">MLGB.

Dansiy绘生活:

Lower prices for seat-less tickets, and number of tickets should also be limited! Don’t know when it will be possible to attract serious attention to this issue.

很久以前就喜欢吃海带:

If it is made half-price, who knows, maybe there will be a lot of people who in order to save money will go buy seat-less tickets. This isn’t only a problem about whether or not one has money…

lnljun:

At the same time, may I ask if there can also be half-price on public transportation [buses, subways] when there are no more seats?

Chinese seat-less or standing-room only train ticket-holders passengers huddling in the aisles and sitting on seat backs.

Chinese seat-less or standing-room only train ticket-holders huddling in the aisles and sitting on seat backs.

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  • Jay K.

    I just can’t get enough…of the sofa!

  • YourSupremeCommander

    I don’t see anyone standing, do you? Full price it is.

    • Zappa Frank

      is not 无座 is just 不舒适座

      • Mony Xie

        So if somebody lie down in the aisle they must pay a 硬卧 price, because it is 不舒适卧.

    • Mony Xie

      Would you pay full price if you go to a restaurant and they tell you to have your meal on the floor?

      • Suk_Mi

        That depends. If the floor is cleaner than the table.

      • markus peg

        a desperate person would and these people in the story above are desperate to get home without other options. If anything they should charge more for seats during this time. screw them over like the bank and phone companies. [cough, …service fees]

        • Cauffiel

          Raising prices at peak times is not greedy or screwing anyone, its logic.

          • markus peg

            cant it be all 3, logical to make more profits and limit those that cant afford to travel and also greedy/screwing..

          • Cauffiel

            It can be all three, but only if you’re a whiny, witless hippie with no understanding of supply and demand and other types of market forces.

            Its not difficult to understand, but its not something most people would intuit… just need to read about it a bit. The world makes more sense (in many more ways than money) if you have a basic understanding of economics. Changed the way I look at everything.

            High ticket prices at peak times are logical and beneficial.

            But then again, we are talking about a government agency in a third world dictatorship.

          • Paul Schoe

            And as a government agency, they have a different task then a commercial company. A commercial company is focused on increase profit for their shareholders.

            This government agency is a government agency with a purpose: serve the people and particularly enable them to get to their families during the important festivals.

            Their investments are done with money from the people, and enabling these people to travel is therefore an objective, even requirement, not a nuisance that limits profits.

          • Suk_Mi

            Except in civilised countries that is. Where we have huge discounts for seasonal festival times and tour companies compete to offer the best deals. See the logic?

      • Cauffiel

        Haha…. why don’t you post the same question on koreabang, see what the say. :-D

  • Repatriated

    It didn’t take many trips on a train to convince me I needed to buy a car. Even if you actually get a seat, it’s still uncomfortable with people constantly bumping into and crowding you. I don’t know what it is about people in China, but they have a problem staying in their seat for more than 5 minutes. They are constantly getting up and moving around…making the sardine session even worse.

    • SimpsonsGoldenAge

      The fast trains are pretty decent in my experience.

      • Suk_Mi

        “The fast trains are pretty decent in my experience.”

        Excuse me?

        • SimpsonsGoldenAge

          The fast trains are…pretty decent..in my experience. What don’t you understand?

          • Suk_Mi

            Try telling that to the people in that picture.

          • Markoff

            you mean those 40 dead out of hundreds of millions transported? I can bet you that train travel in all European countries is more dangerous/unsafe than in China per capita.

          • Chin_Key

            Less on the mushrooms. You are attempting to compare china and europe? Take a hike to the moon.

          • SimpsonsGoldenAge

            Looks like a slow train

        • Deft

          One major accident and you bring it up? in Poor taste… The fast trains are much better than many train services I’ve used in other countries. Much better than back home in the UK.

        • Alexander

          Compare that in context against car accidents and plane crashes……

    • FYIADragoon

      Cars are for showing off in China, not for transportation. You should try a bullet train ticket or a plane ticket.

    • hailexiao

      After you buy a car, you pay 2000 RMB in expressway tolls on your first long distance road trip. That convinces you to go back to trains and buy first class tickets.

      • Repatriated

        It was worth it.

  • Zappa Frank

    the man with bare feet at the top of the seats deserve a special reward.. is not easy to make that kind of situation even worse, but apparently he can..

    • Cynic-Al

      I thought the same thing, although I wouldn’t call him a man.

    • lonetrey / Dan

      I just keep mentally picturing what would happen if the train jerks to a complete stop or something.

      The guy would go flying off the chair, and maybe kick the sleeping person on the way, and then end up face first in the back of the person facing the camera…..

    • Suk_Mi

      “is not easy to make that kind of situation even worse, but apparently he can”

      Especially when he farts, downwind.

    • FYIADragoon

      I can’t imagine an act more deserving of a lifetime ban from all public transport.

  • Freddi BuBu

    Don’t the guys in India actually commute outside on top of the trains? So no need to complain here…..lol!

    • Suk_Mi

      What I’d like to see is indians and chinese commuting together. Now THAT would be a photo shoot.

    • hailexiao

      That works for steam and diesel trains, but for electric trains fed by catenary wires that would not fly unless you like the smell of burnt pork in the cabin.

  • Claude

    It’s the same as Japan but you pay close to $200 dollars for a Shinkasen(bullet train)ticket. I get so angry when I get stuck standing. They’re so proud of this technology but you can’t find a seat. Life in an overcrowded country.

  • Suk_Mi

    You compare daily life in china with the most extreme criminal actions of isolated incidents in the UK. Try getting on the subway in china-beijing or shanghai for instance, then compare that with the daily, overly polite commuters in London, where giving up a seat for a lady or the elderly is the norm, which in china, this attitude is met with total and complete surprise or more often than not, mockery. You haven’t even been on the subway in London, given the nonsense you have just spouted.

    Why were you in London in the first place? Get your ungrateful self back to china where you can happily push an elderly person aside just to get your skinny narrow anus on a plastic chair.

    Ungrateful specimen you.

    • bujiebuke

      – “Ungrateful specimen you.”
      You good sir exemplify the modern day English gentleman.

      • Middle_Kingdum

        I daresay he is the very definition of a modern major general!

        • bujiebuke

          Unfortunately brought down at the turn of the century

    • Cauffiel

      Plastic???? The T trains got wooden seats, son!

      • Suk_Mi

        What’s the difference? Is the wood any softer to sit on?

        • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

          It’s about the same, but if you hear creaking, you might want to get off.

          Also splinters.

      • hailexiao

        Is this the Boston T you are talking about? I ride it daily and haven’t encountered any wooden seats. Even the PCC cars on the Mattapan High Speed Line don’t come with wooden seats.

        • Cauffiel

          Long distance trains in China are lettered. I don’t really know them well, but I know there’s a K and a T, and those are both slow. And the CRH I think is D train.

          • hailexiao

            Ah, those trains! The ones with the array of fans on the ceiling and military green paint scheme. I remember riding those in the early 1990s. Didn’t know they were still in operation.

    • SzMach5

      I strongly disagree with what you said in your first paragraph where you mentioned that giving up a seat for the elderly is met with total surprise in China.
      I go to Beijing often to visit my grandparents and relatives. Whenever my grandma and I get on the Beijing subway with no empty seats, there are always a couple of nice people offering her a seat. I see this type of behavior even more often on the public bus.

      • Suk_Mi

        ‘there are always a couple of nice people offering her a seat. I see this type of behavior even more often on the public bus.’

        That would be the expats.

        • SzMach5

          It’s not smart to keep making wild assumptions.
          Ironically, I’m going to make one and guess that you haven’t traveled around Chinese cities with an elder person or you haven’t been to China lately at all.

          • Suk_Mi

            It’s not a wild assumption but a statement based on experience. Years of it. No need to take it so personally.

          • SzMach5

            I see. And my experience is that there are many Chinese people nowadays that will give up seats to the elderly or pregnant because I’ve seen it happen numerous times.
            I can totally see expats do the same behavior too. You seemed to be dismissing the fact that the Chinese people won’t do this. I just wanted to say it was wrong, sorry if I came off rude.

          • Suk_Mi

            You didn’t come off rude at all. I wish we could see more deference towards the elderly and ladies in general.

    • Deft

      No you are wrong.

      Bullet train service in China is far better than any of our domestic train services back home in the UK so stop talking sh!t.

      The original commenter was talking about Rail services and not subway services, so deflecting and altering the comparison is not a legitimate argument.

      I use the subway everyday in Shanghai and yes people are less polite with regards to orderly queuing and giving up their seats to the elderly. However this is changing, and I often see people giving up their seats, it might not be at the same level but it is improving.

  • Suk_Mi

    You are trying to equate humane feelings in an environment of ‘me, myself, and I’

    I feel like getting angry with you for your attempt but can’t help myself but to respect your feeble attempt to educate people in mainland china. Good luck with that but it is a failed project.

    Stick to Canada. And thank you for reminding me how it is back home:-)

  • Alexander

    There’s no point in taking a train in the US when the price of a plane ticket is nearly the same or even less.

    • Cauffiel

      Amtrak is the worst. But Americans wouldn’t ride trains long distance even if it was free.

      • Alexander

        I think if Amtrak had decent prices people might actually ride it. I’d rather be on an Amtrak train than a Greyhound bus…..

    • hailexiao

      From personal experience, taking Amtrak is far more relaxing and pleasant than flying. The seats and legroom are massive, equal to airline first-class and better than any European or Asian first-class train seat. On western trains you get a double decker observation car with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. Speed is awful and the food isn’t what it used to be, but if you’re not on a tight schedule taking the train is better.

      • Alexander

        No thanks, I could rent a car if I want to see the countryside and do things on my own schedule. As far as transportation, for what a single trip Amtrak ticket costs I can get a round trip plane ticket. If you are going from one side of the country to the other, it would be nice to have a shower over the few days it takes by train, but if you want a room with a shower that costs more than it would to take a nice little cruise….

  • Brad pitt

    I’ve never taken a long trip on a train in China, but the Beijing-Tianjin (only a half hour trip) rides were fantastic. Give credit where credit is due. The Chinese trains are much better than anything the west has. Also, it’s great that the government subsidizes the public transport fees. In Vancouver, Canada it costs 10$(65 yuan) from the suburbs to the city and back. If it were cheaper, I’m sure I would use public transport more often but it ends up being more affordable for me to drive!

  • vonskippy

    Sheeple the world over let holidays dictate their travel plans and pains. STAY WHERE YOU ARE, your family doesn’t care and if you’re honest with yourself, neither do you. Travel sometime else when it’s not crowded (like your birthday or your parents birthday, etc).

    • Cauffiel

      Migrant workers don’t get to choose their vacation days.

      • Zappa Frank

        and even the rest can but choose 5 days if lucky..

    • FYIADragoon

      The government dictates the holiday calendar and businesses are stingy with giving vacation time to workers. This is the only logical time for most migrant workers to visit family.

  • markus peg

    i paid for a bed once on a bus and still had about 3 people trying to sit on my bed… who got on the bus after leaving the city and did not even pay for a seat!..

    never travel during Chinese new year.. To have crowds of people standing around you even sitting down becomes uncomfortable in fact to be anywhere on the train or any public transport during Chinese new year is a no go unless you enjoy stress, sweaty people rubbing against you and seeds spat all around you or even on you.

    • Cauffiel

      I got a bed on a bus once and it was disgusting. The whole bus reeked like a high school gym locker room… stale sweat and feet. Never again.

      • Irvin

        it’s better than train, trust me. always take plane, always.

        • Cauffiel

          I’ve had a bed on a train 3 times in China, and the train is way better…. better than plane, better than seat, better than bus…. in my experience.

          • Irvin

            I rather spend two hours standing in a plane than a whole day sleeping in a train. Those smelly feets and pushy people, once is enough, never again.

    • FYIADragoon

      If you travel the day after or before the migration day, you won’t encounter that. And there’s always plane flights which is how I’ll be getting around.

    • Suk_Mi

      Were the 3 people girls? It puts this in a whole new light:

      “during Chinese new year is a no go unless you enjoy stress, sweaty people rubbing against you and seeds spat all around you or even on you”

      :-)

    • hailexiao

      With enough HVAC even Tokyo Metro levels of crowding can be relatively comfortable. The problem is that there’s never enough HVAC on Chinese public transport. Northeastern US metros have shades of this problem too–when it’s cold but humid outside and the bus is crowded, the operators never turn on the AC to dehumidify the air.

      • markus peg

        Agreed, due to the population their is little they can do about this Chinese new year mass migration.

  • Cauffiel

    Let’s be honest…. the reason the fast trains are good and the slow trains are bad is that the slow train is filled with filthy, inconsiderate peasants.

  • Cauffiel

    Oh, no, Lulu…. it seems you are not familiar with mass public transportation in China. Your comment is so funny and cute.

  • Zappa Frank

    in china..?! hahahaha..

  • donscarletti

    I personally think full-price standing tickets are a fantastic idea. It means that if someone absolutely has to take a particular train, they can. It also means that nobody has any possible incentive to stand on a crowded train unless they have no other choice.

    You give people 20% off for standing and you can bet that some people will stand when there are seats available, you give them 50% off for standing and most people will stand, or think maybe this time they’ll stand on the G train for 4 hours in preference to sitting on a K train for 14 and suddenly everyone’s uncomfortable and blaming the railways for it.

    Abolish standing tickets and you find people are suddenly stuck, waiting for a seat on a train, unable to return to work or return home, when they would be perfectly willing to forgo both their comfort and the price of a seat to get there.

    This is certainly one of those rare cases where the established monopoly does know best and the consumer should largely shut up.

    • Boris_Da_Bengal_Tiger

      Make it so that standing tickets only become available when all the seats are taken. Then people who want to save money on will have to wait for the seated tickets to run out.

      • donscarletti

        The problem with this is that it creates a “perverse incentive” for more people to pack into the already sold out train at reduced cost and not to take a train with seats available. In a way this policy makes it far worse than it would be than if standing tickets were issued to all trains, fully booked or not.

        A possible solution would be something that seems to be gradually becoming the de-facto arrangement in Europe where a second-class seat for an entire journey may be booked in advance at additional cost, whereas the “standard” ticket sold at the gate is something akin to the current Chinese standing ticket, where you can sit in empty second-class seats as they are available and vacate it if it is not, unreserved seats being much more plentiful since most passengers no longer book them. On Deutche Bahn I’ve even seen they have little displays above the seats showing between which stations this seat is booked, to avoid conflicts and embarassment later on. I don’t know if that solution is suitable for China or not, since culture and expectations are different.

        • Boris_Da_Bengal_Tiger

          You can limit the amount of standing tickets on a train. I know we are talking about China here, but there are always ways to go about things. The thing is, people rather take the easier option here than not.

    • Cauffiel

      Could just raise the price of seated tickets. Obviously they are too cheap.

    • hailexiao

      If unmet demand for train service is that high, and people are that willing to undergo discomfort to save 1 RMB on a ticket, then the solution is obvious: standing room only trains. Hell, make them double-decker like in the US west of Chicago. It’s not like legacy infrastructure is a problem like in the West.

  • Nicola Collina

    i always travel 1st class to avoid the standing people (ningbo shanghai, ningbo xiamen)… is not a snobbish attitude, but really is enough boring have (even in first class) people that speak loud on the phone or eat 3 hours without stopping.. So please don’t let me deal with standing people too!
    Usually 1st class doesn’t allow standing people and the 6/10 that everystation try to stay there are sent away by the controller…
    But if there are free seats someone always try sit ..

    I like a lot the ruanwo (soft sleepers). I tried once and was wonderful (Z train ningbo-Beijing). The problem is that i am snorer (big one), so is not a good journey if someone are in my same compartment..

    About sleeping bus: i’ve tried once Nanning-Guangzhou. was nice (and i am 1.90m tall!!), but i was too near to the driver and all journey the sound of the speed limiter at 90km/h was my nice sleeping mate…….
    I only feel little bad because of safety if accident happen… is like a cage and i don’t like die as a rat….

    On topic: i am sure that a quite big % off people will prefer buy the seatless ticket if they will be cheaper… as someone else has already noticed, this is reasonable in principal, but we should remember we are in china, a place where money are the first concern of everyone….

    • Suk_Mi

      Trains in china are crap. Just face it. Here, take a look this English long distance train. Hope you like them eattot.

  • 二奶头发

    I’d say take all the seats out and let everybody stand.

    • Cauffiel

      you sound like my dad

      • Suk_Mi

        That explains a lot.

    • Suk_Mi

      They’d still sit. Ok squat.

  • FYIADragoon

    I laughed myself to death when I heard the original poster talking about market forces in CHINA.

  • FYIADragoon

    I’d bet on the same quality if you took the one from Shanghai to Beijing. But those tickets are around 600 RMB a trip. Too much for the poor people who make up a majority of the ordinary train passengers.

  • Free Man

    Simple solution: stop working far away from home. Let the city people do everything themself. Of course that means you can earn less and your kids will have a hard time getting good education, etc., but at least the family will be together all year.

    In the end the market will change according to demands. If the city people need migrant workers, then let them pay the transport fare and housing for the whole family. Or let them clean up their shit themself.

    I’d rather live a simple life than this madness. Ok, I am an expat, but I get paid so much, I can afford a better life than the locals. Otherwise I would have stayed home.

  • Suk_Mi

    I’d rather ride on the roof.

  • Zappa Frank

    the first one, as written on the ticket it’s seatless, they complain because it has the same price of a seated ticket (that I guess were over).

  • Eileithyia

    Seat-Less Tickets shouldn’t allow to sell for safety season.

  • hailexiao

    Having ridden the trains in the UK, I’m confused by the lack of air conditioning on British railcars. Was UK a cooler country in the past?

    • Chin_Key

      It still is.

  • Claude
  • Chin_Key

    “How about try living in the UK and taking the trains instead of pulling Google images of special holiday ads off the internet as example of the norm? I’ve been on long distance (4+hrs) train rides in the UK, and the ones in those pics are for special holidays trips, not normal commutes, which is packed with lots of people standing for over 2hrs during peak times, and as hot as hell during summer, costing over £50 each way, which you’d get fist class experience in China.”

    Well the article is about long distance trains during festival times, in other words, HOLIDAYS! What’s the matter? The pictures of these lovely trains burn your eyes? As for your comment regarding 2 hour train rides and having to stand. Would you like to see 2 hour train rides and having to stand with people in china? Hacking, spitting, haven’t showered for 2 weeks, don’t use deodorant, haven’t brushed their teeth, eating all manner of nastiness, farting away like its all ok, while their is some mother holding her kid who is pissing all over the place. Should I go on?

    Now piss off back to china where you belong.

  • shanghaiguy

    I would never take a train because of this type of condition.. Sad really because I’d like to do some travelling but am not willing to be crammed in like this. It’s disgusting.. no more seats no more sales.. lets put more trains on the track and get everyone into a seat.

  • Patf

    Doesn’t look as bad as some of the trains in India, where you not only have people crammed inside the train, but also outside (on the top and sides).

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