lauantai 7. lokakuuta 2017

A ticket! My kingdom for a ticket!



I've tried to get train tickets for two people and a bike from Taipei to Hualien. Taiwan KOM Challenge will take place 170 kilometres from the capital where I will get my rent bike.

First, I was informed to go to a site for passengers with a bicycle, see above. It is not available in other languages. 

Google Translator does help, at least in theory. In practice, several options to choose between remain uncomprehensable to me.

Next, I tried to get passenger tickets from the main booking site that has it in English, too. First one has to know which trains accept bicycles. That's something I found somewhere but can't repeat it now, it was too difficult to locate. Anyways, after that is known, it's rather straight forward.

Finally, I proceeded to online paying. All went fine with my credit card until I had to confirm Mastercard that it is really me who is making the transaction.

The security server informed me that I have to insert the specific code that has been sent to my phone. Only that I've received anything. Next morning I made several calls to my bank.

All my information and phone number are ok in the system and they couldn't say why the code doesn't come through. Only thing they were able to do was to manually remove the restriction for the time we were on the phone.

Now, the Taiwan Railways system found my reservation with my passport number and reservation number. I entered all the credit card info and was to click to accept it, but all of the sudden the page refreshed and emptied all the fields. Maybe the form was open too long while I had the line open with my bank?

When I tried to redo the process, this time the system said that the reservation had been paid already. Only that it wasn't and no tickets were gotten. And no way to try paying it again, even though I tried with another browser.

I tried to do another reservation but now there are no seats available on that Thursday morning train that would allow bikes as well.

Photo from CC Yee's Blog

Our son studying currently in Taipei tried to help. He visited two railway stations in order to buy tickets there. On the main station he couldn't find anyone speaking English. On the Songshan station he found but the clerk's opinion was that it is not possible to take a bike to any train going from Taipei to Hualien on that day.
The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) has buried a very comprehensive bicycle policy beneath mountains of rules and red tape that makes accurately understanding it almost impossible. Nobody wants to translate it because nobody, not even the locals, can make heads or tails of it. I have even been to train stations where the person at the ticket counter and the person at the ticket gate have wildly different interpretations of the bicycle policy.
Of course, I'm not alone with this problem. Andrew Kerslake has written a blog post about this (quote above), giving very detailed information how to tackle this issue. That would have been godsend for me, if the site still had the same options to choose as in 2011 when Andrew wrote his text. Of course it has changed.

If I had the time, it'd be awesome to ride that 170 km, then to have some rest, and take part to the Challenge and ride back. It goes without saying that it is not possible.

Any help available? Comment or email me esko [at] lius.fi

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