People lined up at Taiyuan Train Station in Shanxi province to buy tickets for the Chinese New Year holiday, Dec. 28, 2013. (File photo/CNS)
Scalpers using ticket bots booked out all the train tickets on ticketing website 12306 as competition to get a train ticket home for the Chinese New Year holiday has become increasingly fierce, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency and our Chinese-language sister newspaper Want Daily.
The ticket bots can override the website's restriction that only allows buyers to reserve one ticket every five seconds and submits them to a CAPTCHA test. Scalpers registered thousands of accounts with fake ID cards in advance and used them to book train tickets through the official website in bulk. They then sold the bookings for a commission to ticket buyers in the 45-minute period given for payment detail entry, sending them the fake account login details on receipt of a hefty commission, so that the buyers could then purchase the ticket themselves. If buyers could not be found in time, the scalpers used the same software to rebook the tickets and sell on the booking.
Scalpers have been exploiting a loophole in the system, whereby it cannot tell if the ID numbers entered are genuine or fake. The software can reserve up to 1,245 train tickets within ten minutes, said a Chinese media source.
The world's largest annual human migration occurs in China before Lunar New Year every year. A massive number of people in the country travel from cities where they live and work back to their hometowns for the traditional family reunion, which strains the country's transport infrastructure to its limits.
Guo Wei, a 27-year-old man who wants to spend the holiday with his girlfriend in Chengdu, said he did a run-through of every ticketing channel a week before ticket sales began. During the run-through, there were problems with websites being overloaded, as well as a failure to connect to land-line telephones and cell phones. On Jan. 7 when the ticket sales began, Guo asked seven friends to help him buy tickets via land-lines, computers, cell phones as well as through ticket bots, and he managed to secure two hard-seat train tickets.
"People get a real insight into the anxiety and suffering of what it's like to be Chinese if they have ever tried to buy a ticket for Chinese New Year," Guo said.
Ministry of Railway said tickets for popular routes to Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan and Zhengzhou sold out within minutes. Even tickets without seats have sold out.
Trains are the most popular means of transport for travelers before the Chinese New Year as it is represents the most cheap and convenient option. However, trains can only handle 10% of the massive number of travelers returning home for the holiday. The competition to get a train ticket this year has been particularly tough since New Year's Eve is a work day. Many people fear that they may not be able to return to their hometowns in time.
Guo Wei 郭威