CAR drivers face sharp increases in the cost of motoring and severe restrictions on where they can drive, according to a government transport strategy to be unveiled today. Entitled A Report to Address Traffic Congestion, the package of measures endorsed by the Executive Council yesterday will be subject to a three-month public consultation period. Conceding that the strategy of solving congestion by merely building more roads had failed, the Government said the only long-term answer to Hong Kong's worsening traffic jams was the controversial electronic road pricing (ERP) system. Exco member Professor Felice Lieh-mak revealed that a pilot ERP scheme would be proposed in the medium term to test whether the system would work in Hong Kong. 'There is very limited experience from other countries and thus Hong Kong will have to implement the scheme cautiously,' she said. The ERP option was contained in a report compiled by the Transport Branch on the overall strategy to solve traffic snarls. Secretary for Transport Haider Barma will give a statement on the report to the Legislative Council today before announcing the details publicly. According to Professor Lieh-mak, the transport strategy contained both fiscal and administrative measures to combat congestion in the short, medium and long term. In the short term, fiscal measures would be the major means, aimed mainly at containing the growth of private car sales and improving traffic in specific blackspots. These measures included increasing the first registration tax and annual licensing fee by more than 40 per cent. A source close to the Government said the new measures would also try to plug the loophole exploited by company executives who used company cars for private purposes. The source said the proposed increase in registration tax would apply to company cars as well. At present, the registration fee for company cars is lower than that of private cars, prompting people to register their own cars under company names. The source said those who needed a car for their living, like driving instructors, would be exempted from the rise in registration tax. In a bid to relieve congestion at the two cross harbour tunnels, tolls would be doubled from the present $10 to $20. Co-ordination among relevant departments would be strengthened to reduce road closures for works projects, which has led to slow traffic flow. Tougher measures would also be introduced to crack down on illegal parking. One controversial proposal would be the regulation of vehicular traffic in the tunnels by the use of licence plate numbers. The Government, it is understood, favoured such an approach because it could, at a stroke, reduce substantially the number of cars going through Hong Kong's main bottlenecks. Non-fiscal measures were also proposed, such as setting a registration quota for new cars each year. 'The issue of quota is complicated and controversial, not only politically but administratively and economically. It will create a lot of problems. The quota will have to be set carefully,' the source said. Professor Lieh-mak admitted that the quota plan was not a good option because of the considerable difficulty in implementing it. 'But the Government will have to consider this if the public rejects the other options,' she said. She admitted that most of the proposed options were controversial and the public would have difficulty in accepting them. 'The public, no matter whether they are car owners or not, may have to pay under these new proposals and it is likely that they will not support them,' she said. 'But we have to do something now or Hong Kong will become another Bangkok, which suffers heavily by the serious traffic congestion.' One senior official said the Government would continue to upgrade public transport, but admitted that did not fundamentally help solve the traffic congestion on roads. Officials maintained that the consultative exercise was a genuine one, and Professor Lieh-mak said Exco was open to all options. In addition to Legco, officials are to brief district board members on the package. A senior government official said the consultation had to be as wide as possible. 'It has to; a step like this affects everyone.' The official pointed to a public opinion survey conducted by the South China Sunday Morning Post which showed strong levels of support for some kind of action to combat traffic congestion. Another official stressed that there would be no sudden changes to toll fees. 'Nothing will be implemented like that. All of the proposals will go out for public consultation. There won't be any immediate rises, we don't want to surprise the public.'