People’s Republic of China Ministry of Railways

With more than 72,000 km of railway, China has one of the largest railway transport networks in the world. When the country’s Ministry of Railways undertook the monumental task of modernizing its paper-based ticketing system, it chose Sybase.

A Monumental Challenge 

Customer service is central to China’s railway. More than 5,000 railway stations and 2,000 trains depart every day. To keep its edge in the highly competitive passenger service market and improve the quality of service, the Ministry of Railways (MOR) is constantly seeking new ways to boost its competitiveness and service standard. So the MOR decided to replace its network’s outdated, paper-based ticketing system with a computerized ticket vending and reservation system.
Replacing the railway’s old system posed a unique set of challenges:

  • Tens of thousands of ticket vending points needed to connect to the network, with an annual passenger volume of more than 1 billion and up to 4 million tickets being sold in a day
  • At peak hours, some 4,000 to 5,000 requests for tickets might be received at the same time, including numerous requests for the same departure time, same train and same class of seats
  • Complex ticket pricing, ticket quotas, seat reuse and regulations in place
  • Gaps in the telecommunications infrastructure between different parts of the country

After considering these factors, developers decided to adopt a hybrid centralized and distributed architecture consisting of a central database and 23 regional databases for the entire railway. This solution facilitates remote ticket booking, seat reuse, information sharing and reduces network expenses. Additionally, the investment required was reasonable and the system upgrade easy. To help make this solution possible, the MOR turned to Sybase technology.

Sybase’s Adaptive Server Enterprise, Replication Server, Open Client, Open Server, PowerBuilder and PowerDesigner make up the solution’s centerpiece, the station vending system. The MOR ticketing system runs on IBM Linux on POWER server and the performance is excellent.  MOR is very satisfied with the consistently high levels of performance and reliability with the overall system. Its major functions include ticket vending, reservations, refunds, remote ticket booking and statistics.

The regional databases also implement Sybase technology. These are mainly used for planning and deploying data, as well as responding to remote ticket booking requests from other locations.

Implementation and results 

The implementation of the railway ticket vending and reservation system started in 1996. By the end of 1998, online vending was available within the railway authority. Twenty-three regional ticket systems and more than 510 computerized station ticket systems were built, and more than 5,000 ticket vending points put into operation. By 2003, the construction of all regional systems was completed. Centralized ticket vending within the regional centers and a disaster backup system for the regional centers also were available.

Now tickets sold by the computerized vending systems account for more than 90 percent of all tickets sold in the entire railway network, representing over 96 percent of the revenue from the railway passenger. The successful implementation of the ticket system has greatly facilitated the reform of the railway passenger service in terms of productivity and customer relationships, enhancing its competitive edge, boosting efficiency and reducing workload. Booking tickets is more convenient for travelers.

Computerized ticket vending also created a good opportunity to accelerate the reform of the sales and marketing of passenger service. For example, the Xi’an Railway Station changed from a single ticket vending point to multiple points. Sales agent offices are open throughout the city, and a reservation hotline has been established. The reservation service, which was only available to a few contracted organizations, is now open to the general public. The new ease of buying tickets benefits tens of thousands of people, and has been well received.

To date, China’s railway ticket vending and reservation system has set up 23 regional ticket centers and a ticket center at the Ministry of Railways, with tens of thousands of counters providing online vending. The annual passenger throughput volume is more than 1 billion, with an average of 3 million tickets sold per day on average, which could rise to as many as 4.2 million to 4.6 million during the high season. It is now the largest railway ticket vending and reservation system in the world.

Key Benefits
  • Processes passenger traffic of more than one billion people per year, helping to reduce long lines and enhance customer satisfaction
  • Handles up to 5,000 ticket requests simultaneously, keeping seat utilization ratios on hundreds of daily departures at maximum levels
  • Captures and analyzes passenger data on national, regional and local levels, improving rail car efficiency across the network
Sybase Technology
  • Adaptive Server® Enterprise (ASE)
  • Replication Server®
  • Sybase® IQ
  • Open Client/Server™
  • PowerBuilder®
  • PowerDesigner®