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LCQ4: Ordinary vehicle registration marks
     Following is a question by the Hon Nixie Lam and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Logistics, Mr Lam Sai-hung, in the Legislative Council today (April 26):


     ​According to the existing requirement, an ordinary vehicle registration mark (VRM) consists of two letters as prefix followed by one to four numerals. It has been reported that the number of newly-registered vehicles in Hong Kong has been increasing, and when the allocation of the last letter series (i.e. ZZ) of ordinary VRMs also comes to an end, ordinary VRMs will be exhausted. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the letter series of ordinary VRMs up to which the Transport Department allocated as at the end of March this year; whether the Government has estimated when ordinary VRMs available for allocation will be exhausted, and how the allocation mechanism for ordinary VRMs will operate by then;

(2) as some members of the transport sector have pointed out that once the composition of ordinary VRMs is changed, some facilities equipped with traffic management computer systems (e.g. car parks and tunnels) may need to be modified, whether the authorities will consider discussing and exploring solutions with relevant government departments (e.g. the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer); and

(3) as some members of the automobile industry have proposed that after ordinary VRMs available for allocation have been exhausted, the Government may, by drawing reference from the current identifiers for licence plates on the Mainland, introduce a new allocation mechanism under which words related to Hong Kong (e.g. "HK" or "港") are added before the numerals in ordinary VRMs and letters are used to indicate the vehicle classes, whether the Government will consider such proposals; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


     The Transport Department (TD) handles the registration of vehicles and allocates vehicle registration marks (VRMs) in accordance with the Road Traffic (Registration and Licensing of Vehicles) Regulations (Cap. 374E). When a vehicle is registered or when the former VRM of a vehicle is retained by the vehicle owner, the TD will assign a traditional vehicle registration mark (TVRM) to the vehicle concerned for identification purpose. Under the existing TVRM allocation system, the TD assigns to a registered vehicle the letter prefix from "AA" to "ZZ" in ascending alphabetical order (except for some series of letter prefixes which have been reserved for specific purposes), followed by numerals that are randomly selected and allocated by the computer system. My consolidated reply to the question raised by the Hon Nixie Lam is as follows.
     As at the end of March 2023, the TD was allocating TVRMs with the "YN" prefix. As projected from the current rate of allocation, the "ZZ" prefix series for allocation of TVRMs is expected to begin at the end of 2024 or in early 2025.
     Under the existing arrangement, if no application is made by a registered vehicle owner to reserve the VRM formerly allocated before cancelling the registration of the vehicle under his/her name or assigning another VRM for his/her vehicle, the VRM will be returned to the TD. The VRM so returned will only be reallocated to a vehicle by auction. According to the TD's record, as at the end of March 2023, about three million TVRMs have been returned to the TD but not yet reallocated to any vehicles. Based on the current rate of allocation, it is projected that such number of TVRMs is sufficient to meet the demand for not less than 20 years in the future.

     Taking into consideration the relevant factors, the TD preliminarily plans to continue to adopt the existing format of TVRMs. Upon exhaustion of the marks of the "ZZ" series, the TD will begin reallocation of TVRMs that have been returned but not yet reallocated to other vehicles, starting from the "WA" series in reverse alphabetical order. In other words, the allocation will begin with the "WA" to "WZ" series, followed by the "VA" to "VZ" series and then the "UA" to "UZ" series, and so on and so forth. As such arrangement follows the existing format of TVRMs without changing their combination pattern, there will be no need for legislative amendment, nor will it require significant modification of the computer system, thereby avoiding impact on stakeholders.
     The TD will continue to closely monitor the situation of VRM allocation and inform the public of the relevant latest information in due course, having regard to the progress of allocation in future.
Ends/Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Issued at HKT 12:00
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