Digging up the roads will cost companies millions of dollars a month if the Government introduces charges for excavation certificates. And consumers could also suffer financially. The scale of charges has still to be set, but Secretary for Works Kwong Hon-sang said utility firms like gas and telephone companies could have to pay $1,000 a day for permits which are now free. The scheme could generate $17 million a year. The move is part of measures which include tougher action against contractors leaving their sites idle and uncovered for more than one working day. Mr Kwong said the aim was to reduce traffic congestion by making companies more efficient. The permit charges will apply to all gas, power, telephone and other utility companies, but not government departments. And firms could face extra levies if work continues after the permitted period. Mr Kwong said similar schemes around the world had led to dramatic improvements. Some preliminary talks had already taken place between the Works Branch and utility firms. 'But we will discuss the proposal in detail with the companies soon,' Mr Kwong said. He admitted that there could be implications for consumers. 'There is an extent to which we can make improvements without upsetting the balance. Stiffer control will make contractors perform better. 'On the other hand, it will increase costs, which will eventually be passed on to users of utility services.' Mr Kwong said tougher noise controls were also planned for construction machinery.