New curbs drive Beijingers to swamp car lottery website

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 January, 2011, 12:00am

Beijing residents have swamped a website set up to handle a new lottery for car number plates, with more than 53,000 signing up during the first 24 hours, according to mainland media.

The first day's applications are more than 2 1/2 times the number of licences to be issued in the first month of the scheme, which has been introduced in an attempt to rein in the growing number of cars on the capital's notoriously grid-locked roads.

But the new system had resulted in a flurry of new applications, The Beijing News reported yesterday.

The website went live at midnight on Saturday and by 5pm 53,549 people had already applied, the paper quoted unnamed officials in charge of the lottery as saying.

More than 6,000 of the applicants logged their details in the first 10 minutes.

The city has 4.76 million registered vehicles, and drivers often jokingly dub the city 'most congested', a pun on the Chinese for 'capital'.

Prospective Beijing car buyers have until this Saturday to apply for the first batch of licences, which are due to be drawn on January 25.

The new system imposes a monthly quota of 20,000 new plates. Officials intend that the year's total of 240,000 will slash by two thirds the number of new cars hitting the street. About 800,000 licences were issued in the capital last year.

Under the new system, 88 per cent of the licences are for private owners and 10 per cent for government departments.

This means just 2 per cent are available for businesses.

The announcement of the new policy on December 23 caused an immediate rush to car showrooms across the city as residents raced to beat the new rules.

Staff at the Beijing Vehicle Administration Office said the number of applications on that day was almost double the average, such was the great interest.

However, critics have widely predicted the system probably won't have the desired effect, with some experts saying the measures are 'doomed to fail'.

Instead of registering for the lottery, drivers are expected to find ingenious ways to get around the new rules - which could entail the bribing of traffic officials or even registering vehicles in neighbouring Hebei province.