Public reactions have been mildly positive after the China Railway Corporation (CRC) on Sunday launched a cell phone app for a ticket purchasing system and on Friday updated its 2-year-old website long criticized for its poor efficiency and service.
Commentators offered applause for the CRC, once the bureaucratic Ministry of Railways, in keeping up with the times. But some said the new system has much to do to meet travelers' demands.
A day after the trial launch of "Railway 12306," the cell phone app had seen more than 200,000 users try the system, according to the CRC.
Two days earlier, the new version of ticket website 12306.cn was also launched, boasting automatic submitting and refreshing functions to speed up the purchasing process.
The new systems are being put in place to embrace the once-in-a-year Spring Festival rush, likely to hit at the end of January and earlier February as the festival falls on January 31.
All the new designs are aimed to save time and improve passengers' chances of booking a ticket, Wang Mingzhe, an associate research fellow with the China Academy of Railway Sciences, told people.com.cn on Sunday.
The public praised the website's new automatic booking function, which reloads automatically in an attempt to grab scarce tickets.
This service used to be provided by other Internet browsers but was blocked by the former railway authorities citing reasons such as "market disturbance." The website will still block outside automatic booking services due to "inequality with ticket buyers" and excessive pressure on the official website, said Wang.
Since 12306.cn was launched in 2011, its poor service and frequent crashes have been repeatedly criticized as not matching the initial cost of 330 million yuan ($54 million).
The CRC announced in June it would carry out a slew of reforms focusing on efficiency.
"This year's Spring Festival rush is a big test for the corporation, and also for the new version of the system," said Ma Minshu, an expert in e-commerce from Beijing Jiaotong University. He added that the primary cause of the congestion is a lack of transport capacity, which won't be solved any time soon.