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Railway Sector Attacked for Festival Services
The Ministry of Railways is facing mounting criticism from passengers for its price hikes and poor service during the Spring Festival peak travel period, reported China Daily Friday.

China's Consumers Association has sent an inquiry letter to the ministry, demanding answers about the price increase before February 25.

The consumers' protector has asked the ministry to explain why it raised ticket prices without a public hearing, what the legal basis was for raising the prices and what the possibility was of lowering prices.

The ministry is expected to make a record income through the annual 40-day Spring Festival peak transport period, which kicked off on January 9 and ended last weekend. Train tickets went up by 20 to 30 percent during the period.

The price hikes have violated the law on the protection of consumers' rights, which stipulates that any government-led price changes must be discussed at public hearings before being put into operation, said Wang Qianhu, an official with the association.

"But the Ministry of Railways did not hold any such hearing," said Wang.

As well as complaints about tickets prices, some passengers wrote to the association grumbling about the poor service offered by the ministry.

"There was no hot water supply, the carriage weren't cleaned and berth carriages were crowded with people who had paid train workers extra to be allowed to stay there," Hu Xinquan, who took train home from Jinhua City of Zhejiang Province to Zhuzhou, a major city in Hunan Province, told the association in a letter.

The ministry should guarantee passengers safety and convenience after selling tickets to them, Hu said.

Many trains operated behind schedule, but the ministry did not apologize to passengers, he added.

(Xinhua 02/16/2001)

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