Ticket scalpers, once the scourge of Spring Festival train travelers, have seen their profits derailed by online booking services and the rapid expansion in high-speed rail.
For years, Manniu, who would give only his nickname, used to hide from police at a railway station in Jiangxi province to resell tickets. He has now switched to selling cakes to commuters instead.
"No matter what I do, I can earn more money than by scalping," he said. "Plus, it's not so easy to scalp tickets anymore."
Inadequate rail services, which result in severe ticket shortages, especially during the Spring Festival peak when millions of people return home to visit family, have long been a headache for the Chinese authorities.
Scalpers would stockpile tickets, reselling them at high margins, disturbing the market and sparking public anger.
Guo Ping has worked as a railway police officer in Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi, since 1997 and has rich experience in pursuing scalpers.
"In the past, we stood on top of a building to observe ticket buyers with telescopes to identify suspected scalpers," he said, adding that officers were also watching via video cameras installed in ticket halls.
Although scalping is illegal, scalpers were a common sight at railway stations. Yet thanks to the expansion of the high-speed railway network and the introduction of a system that requires real-names and ID numbers to be printed on all tickets, scalpers are a dying breed.
Liu Quan, who spoke on condition of using a pseudonym, was punished in 2010 for ticket scalping and now operates a fruit stand in Xiamen, capital of Fujian province.
"Ticket scalping has become more difficult since 2011," he said, one reason being the online booking system. He added that many of his former colleagues had also switched to new businesses.
Up to 356 million journeys are expected to be made on the railways during this year's Spring Festival travel rush, up 9.7 percent year-on-year, according to China Railway Corp.