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Railway stations taking names as new ticket system kicks off

PASSENGERS buying advance tickets for bullet train services in Shanghai yesterday needed to prove their identity for the first time under a new real-name system which requires ID cards or other legal documents. Railway ticket booths in Shanghai have all been equipped with recognition devices which can quickly read the personal information on ID cards and print the passenger's name and ID number on the ticket. But for other forms of identification, such as passports, ticket officers have to type in the numbers manually which could lead to delays. One ticket officer, surnamed Wu, at a ticket outlet on Taixing Road, said it would take more time to input numbers from documents other than ID cards, and she would have to keep a careful check when typing foreign names and numbers. The nationwide system will apply to tickets for bullet train services prefixed by the letters "C," "D" and "G" from June 1. There are several types of documents allowed under the new system and foreigners can buy tickets using their passports, temporary residence permits, exit-entry permits or diplomatic certificates. Passengers will also have to show their ID cards or documents and their tickets when boarding trains. If foreigners don't have the necessary documents, they will need a letter from their consulate to prove their identities to railway police who can then issue a temporary certificate. Lin Ronggui, an official with the Shanghai railway police, said that unlike Chinese residents who can go to the police office at railway stations and get a temporary ID card by stating their ID number, foreigners who forget their passports or other relevant documents will be unable to buy a ticket. "They will either have to go back to get their passports or visit their consulate to have certain proofs, as we have no access to check foreigners' identities under current system," Lin said. A notice outside the Taixing Road ticket outlet says that copies of ID cards, passports or other valid documents are acceptable when buying tickets. Some loc! al resid ents, however, fear that the new system will not have the desired effect of preventing ticket scalping since the scalpers, they say, can just use fake ID copies or fake copies of other documents to buy tickets for resale. "Unlike the police, ticket officers are less professional at recognizing the truth of certificates," said a resident surnamed Fang. Another problem with the new system is at the automatic ticket buying machines at railway stations, where foreigners who cannot speak Chinese usually go for tickets. These will only be able to recognize Chinese residents' ID cards, according to the policy issued by the railway authority. Swiss-born Alber Arnold, who lives in Shanghai, used to buy all his rail tickets using the machines and said the change would be inconvenient. Arnold said the local government should issue leaflets on how to buy tickets in China and give them out at points of entry to ensure foreigners are aware of the new policy.

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