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    Students, Migrant Workers to Get Early Train Ticket Access This Spring Festival

    A new preferential ticket booking channel makes it more likely for students and migrant workers to secure train tickets home for family reunions this Spring Festival.

    For the first time ever, China Railway has launched preferential channels for students and migrant workers to book their train tickets for the upcoming Spring Festival travel rush, the world’s largest annual human migration.

    Since Wednesday, students and migrant workers have been able to request tickets for trains scheduled to depart at least 17 days later on a special page within the official 12306 ticketing platform.

    As tickets typically go on general sale 15 days in advance of a scheduled train, this allows students and migrant workers to have early access to seats. If their ticket requests are successful, they must finalize their purchase the day before general sale begins.

    This year’s Spring Festival public holiday falls on Feb. 10 to Feb. 17. The travel rush surrounding the period, referred to as chunyun, will begin Jan. 26 and last until March 5, a total of 40 days.

    In 2023, there were 4.7 billion passenger trips during this period, including 348 million trips by rail, the most popular mode of public transport.

    China Railway has said the move will help “key groups” travel during this period. Migrant workers and students are subject to different rules under the new system. Migrant workers can book “hard seats,” the cheapest class of seating in China’s rail system and only available on non-high-speed trains, as well as submit one request for a specific train and seat selection per order.

    Meanwhile, students are permitted to submit 20 different sets of train times and seats per order, and may choose from hard seats, hard sleepers, and second-class seats on high-speed trains.

    High-speed trains are much faster than regular trains, but also more expensive. For instance, a nine-hour high-speed train from Shanghai to Guiyang in southwest Guizhou province is priced at 730 yuan ($102), almost three times more than a regular train that takes 27 hours.

    Students must verify their identities using their student ID, and they can only purchase tickets for the two destinations they previously registered with their schools to access student discounts for train tickets, typically their hometown and their place of education.

    The migrant worker channel also requires identity verification, but there is no requirement for proof of migrant worker status. 

    According to official figures, there are around 295.62 million migrant workers and 44.3 million students enrolled in higher education in China.

    A 12306 customer service agent told Sixth Tone that the seats sold under the new preferential channels are the same as those on general sale. 

    Liu Ruchen, 25, a data processing worker based in the eastern city of Hangzhou, said it is acceptable for migrant workers to have early access to seats given the importance of Spring Festival for them: “I would rather spend some extra money to buy a plane ticket if I can’t snap up a rail ticket … These new measures can give migrant workers a better chance (of going home).” 

    Earlier this month, China Railway also launched two new features allowing passengers to pre-fill their personal information on the 12306 platform and set up ticket release reminders to improve convenience.

    Editor: Vincent Chow.

    (Header image: VCG)