Fears of Ticket Hikes As China Scraps Indebted Railways Ministry

With China deciding to dismantle its powerful but indebted Railways ministry in a bid to boost government efficiency and tackle corruption, a move that some Chinese Web users worry could mean higher ticket prices on the horizon.  The massive monopoly will be split into two arms, with its administrative powers coming under the Ministry of Transport. A company will be established to run China’s commercial railway operations.

The Ministry of Railway leaves a massive debt of 2.66 trillion yuan (420 billion US dollars), and officials have not yet decided how to deal with it, Wang Feng, deputy director of the State Commission for Public Sector Reform, said on March 11, 2013. That decision will be “left for the next step,” he said.

The ministry has long been a target of accusations of corruption and a hotbed of scandal. In 2011, a collision between two high-speed trains triggered outrage online. In 2012, Chinese questioned the frustrating ticket-booking website that cost the railways ministry 300 million yuan (47.8 million US dollars) to build, as well as promotional video that cost 18.5 million yuan (2.94 million) to produce.

Chinese media have welcomed the break-up of the ministry.