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Transport and logistics

Tougher penalties for unruly passengers on China’s planes and high-speed trains

Anybody lighting up on China’s bullet trains could face a six-month ban from the entire rail network under new rules

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 9:18pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 11:00pm

Passengers who brawl or disrupt operations on China’s high-speed trains and planes will face stiff rail and flight bans under tough new rules introduced on public transport on Tuesday.

From May 1, anybody caught smoking or “obstructing” operations on high-speed rail services will be banned from the entire rail network for six months, according to an announcement by the National Development and Reform Commission and two other departments.

People involved in brawls at airports or on flights, or who attack check-in staff or air crews will be barred from boarding any plane in China for a year.

Unruly air passengers were previously ordered to pay fines or serve a period of detention. The China Air Transport Association has also kept a log of misbehaving air passengers since February 2016 but did not impose any additional penalties.

Fines for anybody caught smoking on high-speed trains ranged up to 2,000 yuan (US$315).

The introduction of the penalties comes amid intense media attention on the misbehaviour of Chinese passengers at home and abroad.

In January, a woman in Hefei, Anhui province, blocked the door of a high-speed train to stop it leaving because her husband had not arrived.

The train service was delayed and the woman was fined 2,000 yuan.

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In 2016, an 18-year-old man set off a fire alarm on a high-speed train from Chongqing to Chengdu when he lit up a cigarette in a toilet. The train was forced to slow from 300km/h to 90km/h, and the man was ordered to pay a 500-yuan fine.

Sun Zhang, a professor at Tongji University’s Institute of Railway and Urban Rail Transit, said the previous penalties did not adequately deter smokers.

“Smoking on high-speed trains ... touches the bottom line of the law, threatening the operation of trains,” The Beijing News quoted Sun as saying.

Guilin’s rail authorities said smoking triggered alarms on trains, forcing the vehicles to slow or even stop, disrupting schedules and threatening the safety of high-speed operations.

Delays could also inflict serious costs on a system handling billions of passengers a year.

Airlines have also been confronted with unruly passengers.

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Just last week, a Chinese man opened the emergency exit on a plane to let in some air as he waited to disembark from a flight in Mianyang, Sichuan province, resulting in delays as the authorities investigated the matter.

And in 2014, a plane from Bangkok to Nanjing was forced to turn back to Thailand after a female Chinese passenger threw hot water and noodles at a flight attendant and a male passenger threatened to blow up the plane.