Hurry to beat deadline goes into overdrive

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 December, 2010, 12:00am

Fu Jianhui, a Beijing office worker, cheered when he learned the municipal government had introduced a lottery mechanism to accompany the cap on the number of car plates it would issue each year to tackle traffic congestion.

Minutes before the news conference to announce the policy started at 3pm yesterday, Fu and his wife rushed to a car dealership and paid 205,000 yuan (HK$239,470) for a Citroen C5. It's their second car, and they were afraid they might never get one once the new traffic control measures went into effect.

'What a great chance I took,' Fu said with a sigh of relief.

Fu is one of thousands of Beijing residents who have been queuing up at dealerships and government number plate registries to get in ahead of a new car ownership crackdown they feared was coming. Fu said his wife needed her own car to drive to work, as she works at a university in the western outskirts of the capital.

On the new policy, Fu acknowledged that the lottery would cut car ownership in Beijing. but said what mattered to the public was the transparency of the system.

Also, he said: 'I think the government might have to improve the public transport system to better tackle congestion, as many people wouldn't have to buy a car if public transport were acceptable.'

The scene at the Beijing Vehicle Administration Office, a car registry under the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau, was chaotic, as hundreds of people packed the usually spacious hall to get their new cars registered.

One employee said no one there had yet received the new registration policies, but the number of registrants yesterday almost doubled compared with any normal day.

Ding Wen, a businessman who bought a Subaru Forester on Tuesday, said he was rushing to register it yesterday but might have to pay the vehicle purchase tax another day as the queue was so long.

Ding said he was disappointed no further measures were introduced to control the number and use of government-owned vehicles.

'If they really want to solve the [traffic] problem, the government must take the lead in regulating the way government vehicles are used,' he said.

Li Di, a sales representative at the Beijing Borui Xiangchen Car Sales Centre on the south side of the city, said they were expecting a slump in business from next month, and there was nothing they could actually do about it. 'You've got to live with that in the same way that we've been overstretched in manpower to handle the upsurge of business in recent days,' he said.