“Guard this with your life.”
Shanghai’s vice mayor, Shen Jun, said this week that vehicle licence plates could become as valuable as gold, as the municipal government ramps up efforts to reduce congestion on the city’s roads.
Speaking at the municipality’s People’s Congress meeting on Sunday, Shen said chronic traffic problems in the city of 23 million “could not be ignored” and that more efforts would be put into developing public transport networks including bus and rail.
“We are using the auction system to ease road congestion…so far the results have been pretty good,” Shen said. “It’s not that the government wishes to see Shanghai plates getting more and more expensive. We don’t expect this auction method to become a way of raising public revenue either.”
Prices for Shanghai licence plates have soared in recent months, now costing as much as a reasonably priced car.
The average price for a Shanghai plate soared to 75,000 yuan ($12,000) at the city’s license plate auction over the weekend, roughly equal to the retail price of a brand new, fully loaded Geely MK-II sedan. Shanghai plates went for an average of 50,000 yuan a year ago, meaning prices have risen nearly 2,000 yuan a month.
Motorists who do not have Shanghai plates (identified by the character 沪) are forbidden from driving on elevated highways during peak periods, making getting around incredibly slow.
How does someone participate in the auction? First, the applicant needs to go to a branch of Bank of Communications to register. There, the applicant puts down a 2,000 yuan deposit to get an account number and a computer disk. The disk has a program that the motorist uses to connect to the system that allows auction participants to bid, using the account number. The applicant has only three chances to bid, at 100 yuan a pop.
Unlike Shanghai, Beijing (another city plagued by congestion) hands out licence plates via a lottery system. However, there have been numerous accusations of corruption and fraud within the lottery system, which can also be painfully slow.