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No Raising Prices During the Holiday
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China's rail operators have been banned from ending discount fares until after this year's Spring Festival travel rush, said a spokesman of the Ministry of Railways (MOR) on Thursday.

Wang Yongping made the remarks in response to questions about complaints from travelers that some rail fares had risen despite a government imposed price freeze on all train tickets over the holiday.

Wang said fares on services in east China's Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, south China's Guangdong Province and the southwestern Chongqing Municipality had all been subject to complaints since the freeze was announced.

The MOR pledged last month that fares for all services would be frozen during the 40-day Chinese lunar new year holiday transportation season, permanently ending the controversial policy of raising prices during the peak time.

Wang explained that tickets selling at higher than normal prices were generally for air-conditioned and heated trains, but the rises were due to the ending of discounts and the restoration of normal fares.

According to MOR regulations, air-conditioned trains, which usually had fares at 50 percent higher, could discount fares in low periods.

The MOR has ordered that discounts on air-conditioned trains should be maintained in order to keep to the price freeze pledge.

As a government department, the MOR was responsible for ensuring the freeze was adhered to, said Wang.

"All stations must take the most strict measures to put the decision into effect," said Wang.

Wang admitted the freeze would increase pressure on the rail network.

The quality of service must also be ensured despite the rising number of passengers, said Wang.

The ministry organized 318 temporary return rail journeys, up 5.6 percent compared with last year's lunar new year period to cope with the expected record number of 155 million passengers.

The number is 4.3 percent up or 6.39 million more than a year ago.

Heating, lighting, water and radio services must be ensured in all temporary trains, said Wang.

Fifteen of the new China Railway High-speed (CRH) trains, capable of traveling at 200 kilometers per hour, would be put into trial operation during the holiday.

The nationwide travel rush this year will begin on Feb. 3 and last for 40 days to March 14.

(Xinhua News Agency February 2, 2007)

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