Quirky variables vex online ticket buyers

Quirky variables vex online ticket buyers
Foreigners check boarding information at Suzhou Railway Station in Jiangsu province.

Some foreigners have encountered difficulties buying train tickets in China due to a new ID verification policy, Chinese media reported.

"Many of my foreign clients have had problems when they went to collect the tickets they booked on 12306.cn, the booking website run by China Railway Corp, since the new rule took effect," Helen Xie, an employee for China DIY Travel, told Beijing Youth Daily.

The railway company adopted a stricter measure to verify identity information with what is printed on ID cards or passports on March 1, saying the move aims to prevent scalpers from using fabricated names to book tickets.

Passengers are required to have their identities checked at ticket counters in railway stations by presenting a valid ID certificate before purchasing or collecting their paper tickets.

However, the 12306 website does not allow a space or hyphen in names, creating confusion and trouble for some users.

Xie said one of his clients was rejected by a ticket counter worker who insisted there should not be spaces between the foreigner's names.

"His name is Martin Jeffery Thomas James, so he typed it in the online form," she recalled, "but the worker at the railway station refused to give his ticket because he failed to write his name out in full with no spaces in between so he 'violated' the new rule."

Another case involved a Canadian traveler, Louis-Pierre P Lepage, who was refused a ticket because the name printed on the ticket did not have a hyphen, and his passport did.

"It is ridiculous that the instruction on their website tells you not to include space and punctuation when filling in the name online but station workers later invoke the absence of a hyphen to refuse giving the ticket," Xie said.

The restriction on the number of English letters that can be typed in the online form also generates problems.

Xie said only 20 letters can be contained in the form, leaving a family of three from India having to input three names that seem identical.

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