Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said yesterday it was “very improper for the public to seek favors” from the Presidential Office when purchasing train tickets.
“The public can reserve train tickets through normal channels and does not need to go through the Presidential Office,” Mao told a press conference yesterday.
During a recent visit in Hualien, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said he sympathized with people who had had problems buying tickets to go to the eastern county during weekends or holidays and said he would try to resolve the longstanding problem.
As a result, the Presidential Office started receiving calls from the public, with callers asking Ma to book tickets on their behalf.
Local TV news reported that in response the Presidential Office had asked the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) to handle the requests.
At a separate setting yesterday, Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) confirmed that the Presidential Office had received complaints from travelers about difficulties purchasing train tickets for the New Year.
The Presidential Office received 38 cases of complaints between Dec. 17 and Thursday, Wang said. The complaints were conveyed to the TRA, which helped with the purchase of about 120 tickets, Wang said.
While the TRA intends to add seats for the four-day New Year holidays, Wang said he did not believe the 120 tickets they helped purchase would affect other travelers.
Asked whether he worried they would receive more requests for help, Wang said the Presidential Office would follow the same procedure regarding complaints, but that the public must not expect that all their problems would be resolved before the New Year.
Wang said that for those who really need tickets to go home for the New Year, a more effective way would be to purchase the tickets online or at a train station.
Wang also encouraged the public to call the TRA’s customer service hotline, saying that the TRA should be in a position to help travelers resolve their problems.
TRA Director-General Frank Fan (范植谷) said yesterday the TRA had added 152 express trains — or the equivalent of 62,000 seats — to the schedules to service homebound passengers during the New Year holidays.
On average, 7,360 additional seats were made available daily for express trains scheduled to operate along the East Coast between Wednesday and next Monday.
Fan said the TRA began handling requests for New Year holiday tickets on Dec. 17. By Thursday, the TRA had received phone calls from 34 people requesting assistance in purchasing tickets.
“Some of them are visually impaired customers, whereas others said they did not know how to reserve tickets in advance,” he said, adding that only a few did not get the type of express trains they wanted.
Fan said the TRA allowed people to book tickets in advance until 10pm every day, and the tickets must be picked up within three days.
Tickets that do not get picked up will be available for other passengers.