A female passenger has sued a local railway authority for allowing passengers to smoke on trains, and a railway transport court held a hearing Wednesday on the case.
The Beijing Railway Transport Court held the hearing for a female passenger surnamed Li suing Harbin Railway Bureau.
Li was traveling June 9 from Beijing to Tianjin on train K1301 operated by Harbin Railway Bureau when she noticed lots of passengers smoking between the two carriages, though the company's safety tips clearly state that smoking is banned everywhere on the train.
After filing a series of complaints that generated no useful response, Li decided to sue, demanding compensation for her ticket, valued at 102.5 yuan (), her legal expenses, and 1 yuan as compensation for her mental suffering.
She also demanded that the Harbin Railway Bureau issue a smoking ban on train K1301 - which is not a high-speed train - as well as on the platforms of the Beijing and Tianjin railway stations, in addition to removing the smoking areas and ashtrays.
In the court, the defendant argued that the case was a dispute of transportation contract in name only and was essentially a public interest lawsuit. It demanded the court dismiss Li's request since her claim did not meet the conditions in each case.
Harbin Railway Bureau believed that it had fulfilled its contract obligations as the passenger was transported to her destination safely. Setting up smoking areas and ashtrays is a humanized management measure instead of a violation of law.
"The complete ban of smoking on regular trains that often take 30 hours to finish a journey is unrealistic, " according to a Harbin Railway Bureau agent. "Otherwise some people would smoke in the carriages, which is much more dangerous."