People will decide on the success of railway reform

China’s latest railway reform must be tested and accepted by the public before it can be considered a success.

China has dismantled the controversial Ministry of Railways, which was founded on the same day as the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The former ministry will be divided into two parts to carry out administrative and commercial functions, respectively.

The former Railways Ministry was both a policy maker and service provider, and has long been criticized for the difficulties travelers faced in securing tickets, bureaucracy and deadly rail accidents.

Though praise has been heaped on the dismantling, the result of the reform is pending the people’s approval. As the ultimate beneficiaries, the public should make the final judgement.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, has called on officials to regard people’s satisfaction as the ultimate goal of the Party and government’s power.

On March 6, while attending the annual session of China’s top legislature, Wen Jiabao said whether the people are satisfied, happy and supported is the basis for testing everything the government has done.

To satisfy the people, substantial improvements should be tangible and realized after the reform, such as greater convenience in purchasing train tickets.

Above all, railway transport safety must be improved and maintained, because Chinese people’s patience has been tested by a series of tragedies and scandals exposed in the former railway system.

At the end of 2012, China’s railway lines in operation extended 98,000 kilometers across the country, including 9,356 kilometers of high-speed lines.

However, its railway density and per capita line length still lag far behind that of developed countries, which makes buying train tickets a trying experience for Chinese people during holidays.

The public will not be pleased if they still have to queue for a whole day, or be fleeced by scalpers, for a single ticket, like they did prior to the reform.

They are also likely to pin the blame on the government if the new railway administration and the market-oriented railway corporation fail to keep ticket prices at a rational level.

Xinhua