The tighter air quality objectives announced by the government yesterday can only be achieved by introducing stringent measures such as car-free and low-emission zones, the government's consultant says. But the proposals have already encountered strong opposition from drivers and shop owners, who say such measures could affect business. According to findings of the government's consultancy study by Ove Arup - released yesterday for public consultation - three low-emission zones covering dense commercial and retail clusters should be set up in Central, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok as a pilot scheme to separate residents and pedestrians from roadside air pollution. While the Environmental Protection Department has already suggested that buses with poor emission standards could be among the first vehicles to be banned in low emission zones, the consultant said all vehicles with Euro III emission levels and below should be banned from entering the three zones. Euro III vehicles were introduced in 2000. Clusters covered by the low emission zone in Central include the government complex, Legislative Council building, core commercial and banking areas and Hollywood Road. The other two low emission zones in Causeway Bay and Mong Kok mainly cover popular shopping areas, including Times Square, Sogo, Lee Theatre Plaza, and retail clusters near Langham Place. The government did not mention the penalty for illegal entry, but in London non-compliant vehicles that enter low emission zones will be charged up to ?200 (HK$2,550) a day. Inside the three zones, the government also proposed car-free zones at 27 shopping and dining areas, including Lan Kwai Fong and Russell Street in Causeway Bay. Pedestrian schemes are already in place in these areas at certain times. The government said permanently restricting vehicles would further reduce the public's exposure to roadside pollution. The cost of low emission zones is estimated at about HK$3.7 billion. Car-free zones would cost HK$42 million. But they would bring benefits of about HK$2.6 billion and HK$400 million, the consultancy said. Other transport measures to be introduced in phase one include optimising bus routes to reduce bus trips in non-peak hours by about 10 per cent. Expanding railway and cycling networks in new development areas would also be considered. For phase two, the government says it will consider imposing electronic road pricing and will reduce the provision of car parks. No timetable has been set. Ben Leung Wai-bun, who owns four Euro III standard cargo vans, said he would have to close his business if his entire fleet was banned in the busiest districts. 'More than half of the industry would be dead by the time we can see clear sky.' The government has offered subsidies for owners of old commercial diesel vehicles to switch to greener models, but Mr Leung said the scheme was not popular. The cheapest model costs about HK$200,000 - four times that of a second-hand van. The president of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association, Caroline Mak Sui-king, feared the policy would increase the burden on small retailers inside the low emission zones since they might have to replace their fleets. Taxi unionist Low Shih-cheng from the Motor Transport Workers General Union said the government wanted to turn Paterson Street in Causeway Bay into a car-free zone after midnight years ago, but the idea was scrapped after strong opposition from residents. It might also cause huge inconvenience to the elderly, sick and those in wheelchairs, he said. Town Planning Board member Ng Cho-nam said: 'It's normal for people with vested interests to object.' He said areas with better air quality should attract more business.