The rise in railway ticket prices over Spring Festival was announced yesterday - ending a process which has been dogged by controversy.
Officials at the State Development Planning Commission (SDPC) said the prices were tailored to meet people's purchasing power and would not hit those on low incomes hardest in the pocket.
The masses were given a say in the pricing strategy for the State-run railways at a public hearing held earlier this month.
The Ministry of Railways has been authorized to increase seat prices by 15 percent during the holidays. Those traveling in soft or hard sleeper carriages were counting the cost with ticket price increases of 35 and 25 percent respectively.
In its application discussed at a public hearing organized by SDPC a fortnight ago, the ministry demanded a 30 percent price increase for hard and soft seats and a 20 percent hike for sleepers during busy seasons.
SDPC, China's highest pricing authorities, said the decisions were partly based on the suggestions submitted by the majority of the 33 delegates representing public consumers at the country's first central government-sponsored public hearing on the price of railway tickets on January 12.
The delegates consented to the principle of a rise in train ticket prices, but they urged pricing authorities to give careful consideration to low-income groups such as students, farmers and migrant laborers.
According to the regulation approved by the central government, the railway companies can increase ticket prices during five-seven days prior to Spring Festival and 13-15 days following the Chinese Lunar New Year. But the hike is not allowed to last beyond 20 days together for the same lines.
Li Zhe, a civil servant in a Beijing-based government agency, said the price hike was acceptable.
"Generally it's OK, but I'm still concerned over the poor service provided by train attendants," said Li.
SDPC said the measures were decided following the hearing, and the Ministry of Railways' application was re-assessed.
As the State's top pricing authority, SDPC will continue having a decisive say in the pricing mechanism used for rail transport as the Ministry of Railways is currently not an independent regulator due to its deep involvement in the operations of some railway companies.
(China Daily January 28, 2002)