Drive on road pricing

TRANSPORT officials are to ask motorists whether they will pay for the right to drive in crowded areas, in the first step of a three-year study.

The Transport Department survey on Electronic Road Pricing (ERP), to start next month, will gauge opinion on the introduction of a scheme to charge road-users.

It will throw hypothetical questions at motorists relating to their daily routes and timetables and whether they would alter them if charges were levied on certain zones.

Transport Department ERP Division chief engineer Tsang King-man said the survey would start next month and last four weeks.

Consultants working on the three-year study, which started last month, were expected to carry out the survey under the department's supervision.

'We want to find out what driver behaviour might be like. From the survey we will calibrate our transport model for ERP,' Mr Tsang said.

Motorists will be asked to choose between driving into a congested area and paying peak time rates, entering during off-peak hours at a discounted fee or taking public transport.

'We may decide to conduct the surveys in our licensing offices, asking those renewing their licences to take some time to fill out the form,' Mr Tsang said. Forms could also be distributed to taxi associations and other commercial vehicle operators.

Hong Kong Automobile Association chief executive Kendy Chan Kin-chung argued the study should be carried out by an independent body.

'The way you ask a question can easily influence the answer. Getting someone independent would better reflect the truth,' Mr Chan said.

'We commissioned our own survey in 1995 and found the majority of the public did not support physical changes to control congestion anyway. This is exactly what ERP does.'