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Big Iron's broken promises

Promises from the Ministry of Railways

Spring Festival Rush (春运, chunyun): the two-week period when all of China goes home for the holidays. The mass migration taxes the country’s transportation network, particularly the railways.

In the run-up to the peak travel crunch each year, long lines and pushy scalpers hassle prospective travelers, and tickets always seem to be in short supply.

For several years now, the Ministry of Railways’ response has been to promise to end the problem, but as commentator Cao Lin shows in an op-ed for the Youth Times, these promises have not been kept. In fact, Cao argues, the promises can’t be kept: by continually promising a swift end to Spring Festival ticket shortages, the Ministry undermines its own credibility.

Solving the Ticket Shortage

by Cao Lin / YT

Every year at the Spring Festival rush, the voice of public opinion inevitably addresses the ticket shortage issue, and this year is no exception. Of course, it is no surprise that the Ministry of Railways offers up to a ticket-needy public its usual basket of words: in a few years, there won’t be a ticket shortage. In the face of public complaints, vice-minister Wang Zhiguo said at a Spring Festival Rush press conference a few days ago that while the ticket shortage is not solvable this year, by 2015 it would be history.

“History by 2015” obviously means that by 2015, buying tickets will no longer be a problem, and returning home for the Spring Festival will no longer be so difficult. For ticket-seekers standing futilely in line, suffering the winter cold, this promise was no ray of hope; rather, it brought only despair: ticket difficulties will not be resolved in the near future.

Why would such a promise bring despair to the public? Because the public hears the same promise practically every year. Only the time frame is different. Online, one can easily find the timetables issued by the Ministry of Railways. In 2007, Ministry spokesperson Wang Yongping said that the situation would be substantially resolved by 2010. But in 2009, Wang Yongping pushed the timetable to 2012, three years in the future, and said that by that year the situation would be basically resolved. After he was questioned, he stated resolutely, “there is a basis for this claim.” But now in 2011, the timetable has been pushed back again, to 2015. Running off the mouth like trains, do they really expect anyone to believe all of this?

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