ELECTRONIC road pricing was a ''hard reality'' Hong Kong drivers would have to face in the next two years, outgoing Secretary for Transport Yeung Kai-yin warned yesterday. In by far his strongest statement yet in favour of the controversial tax, Mr Yeung said only technology now stood in the way of its introduction but that could be overcome within 12 months. ''It's time to re-visit electronic road pricing . . . I just wish the technology was there to do it straight away,'' said Mr Yeung, who yesterday walked away from a 31-year civil service career to a new life in the private sector. ''It is by far and away the fairest way of taxing road users, certainly far more fair than the first registration tax we have at the moment. ''No city has yet to find a fool-proof system. We have the auto-toll but no one has yet found an accurate method of getting information on the details of a car at speed on a highway. ''I think we should do what we can to research the latest methods.'' The South China Morning Post has learned the issue has been recently moved up from the back-burner and is expected to become a key policy move by Mr Yeung's replacement, former director of urban services Haider Barma who today formally takes over the job. The branch has previously admitted such moves were just one of the options under long-term consideration to curb further growth in private car use and ease Hong Kong's congested roads. The idea of charges for using a particular stretch of road to limit traffic using it proved wildly unpopular when first mooted by former transport secretary Allan Scott in 1984. Sources said, however, the branch was now studying a worldwide tender deal underway in Singapore to attract the latest technology for several of its roads. The Singapore Government has for several years charged for certain stretches of road at certain times. Hong Kong's bid is to use the scheme to bring the annual growth rate in car registrations down from nine per cent to 1.6 per cent in 1997 and keep it there to 2001. Estimates show this is needed to keep traffic flows of between 22 and 30 km/h around HongKong roads. The Hong Kong Government wants to elaborate on the auto-toll pilot scheme now underway at the Aberdeen and Cross-Harbour tunnels, whereby drivers buy ''credit'' cards automatically deleted via a bar-coded car sticker. The car of anyone without credit is photographed automatically for later billing and possible prosecution. Sources said the branch was now concentrating on technology but once it had a water-tight scheme would start formulating ways of selling it to a suspicious public. ''We're not yet sure exactly where the main opposition will come from but privacy could be one key issue,'' a source said. The Automobile Association has traditionally opposed the move. saying bottlenecks and congestion should be fixed by major road-building work, instead of further taxing users.