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by Tim Beissmann

It has taken just one day for prospective new vehicle owners in Beijing to apply for almost one quarter of the city’s entire 2011 quota.

On January 1 – the first day Beijing residents could apply to have the right to purchase a vehicle in 2011 – the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport received 53,549 applications, which is more than 2.5 times the city’s monthly quota.

Two days before Christmas, the Beijing City Council announced a scheme limiting the number of passenger vehicle registrations to just 240,000 for 2011. Beijing’s 2010 passenger vehicle sales are predicted to exceed 800,000.

Around 96,000 new vehicles were sold in Beijing in November and a further 30,000 were registered in the week beginning December 13 in anticipation of the quota system’s introduction.

The registration plate lottery system will select from people who do not currently own a car as well as eligible businesses.

In addition to the limits, vehicles without a Beijing registration will be banned from driving on some of the city’s busier streets during peak hours. Purchase of new government cars will also cease for the next five years.

Beijing’s current odds and evens system – where vehicles are only permitted on the roads every second day based on the last digit of their registration plate – will remain.

A survey by the International Business Machines Corp. found that Beijing tied with Mexico City as the world worst city to drive in, with traffic and petrol prices the key annoyances.

A study by the Beijing Transport Research Centre from the first half of 2010 showed that during weekday morning rush hour, the average speed of vehicles in Beijing was 24.2km/h.

It concluded that if nothing was done to stop the boom in vehicle registrations, the average speed would fall below 15km/h before 2015.

The 2011 registration quota is the first step in Beijing’s plan to limit the city’s vehicle fleet to five million for the year 2020.

As of last month there were more than 4.75 million vehicles in Beijing, which was up around 2.2 million from five years earlier.




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