TRANSPORT administrators claim maverick bus operators are running illegal routes in Kowloon and the New Territories . . . but say there is little they can do to stop them. Small operators are skirting transport laws to run buses on speedy, non-stop routes from Tuen Mun to urban Kowloon. The Transport Department says the operators are using legal loopholes, while others rely on the lack of penalties, to whisk New Territories residents to work faster than the Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) services. The Sunday Morning Post has found that up to 30 of these buses operate in the Tuen Mun district during the rush-hour periods. They attract passengers who say they are tired of the long queues and insufficient services provided by licensed buses. A Transport Department spokesman said it was difficult to control these operators because of the sheer numbers of buses involved. 'When we find out about a particular operation we usually send a warning letter informing the operator that he must stop,' the spokesman said. 'We will then send people out to check whether the operator has. If that fails, we may cancel his Passenger Service Licence. Unfortunately, that move does not preclude the operator having his partner, wife, or another family member apply for a new licence.' But Tuen Mun residents lauded the services and said the buses were a welcome addition to regular public transport. 'The advantage of taking these buses is that I can get a seat, so I don't have to stand for up to an hour and a half, which it sometimes takes to get to my office in Tsim Sha Tsui by KMB,' said insurance underwriter Ben Suen, from Marina Gardens. Another regular, a woman who identified herself as Ms Fung, realised the buses might not have insurance, but was prepared to take the risk. 'Sure, I know that if there is an accident we may not get compensation, but riding these buses is much more convenient,' she said. Sunday Morning Post reporters took an illegal bus from Tuen Mun to Tsim Sha Tsui, boarding near Miami Beach Towers. The journey to Chatham Road took one hour, shaving 15 to 30 minutes off the usual KMB time. It cost $12, little more than the $11.50 KMB fare. Operators said they took advantage of legal loopholes to provide monthly tickets for $290 to $310. Semi-legal buses - those which claim to use a grey area in legislation to provide their services - do not accept cash from passengers. Passengers register as members of a 'club' which has been incorporated in order to legally hire 'tour' buses. Passengers deposit their monthly fare into the club's account in exchange for the ticket which guarantees them 26 one-way rides. But a Transport Department spokesman said the operations were still considered illegal because such clubs are only allowed to hire 'tour' buses sporadically. Mantak Coach Service director Cheng Man-kin, whose company provides a residents' service in the Tuen Mun district, said his firm had applied several times for licences, but had been unsuccessful. 'In August 1990 we applied for an operator's licence to run a service from Leung King Estate in Tuen Mun to Tsim Sha Tsui; it was not until November 1991 that the Transport Department informed us the application was not successful. 'Their reason was our route duplicated that of a KMB route set up in August 1991 - a year after we submitted our application.' Mr Cheng said it was difficult to acquire a licence without local political support. 'If we are not backed by political parties, district board members will certainly reject our application in their discussions with the Transport Department, saying that there is no necessity. But these same board members will turn around and operate a bus service themselves,' he said. Elected Tuen Mun District Board member Leung Kin-man ran an illegal bus operation for 10 years, from 1979 to 1989. He claimed he did so to meet residents' needs. 'To be their representatives and do nothing to provide a convenient service, would mean we take the blame. But if we operated such buses we then contravene the law. What can we do?' asked Mr Leung. Tuen Mun Siu Hei Court District Board member Willy Ng Wai-cho said he had helped run a 'residents' ' service for almost 10 years. 'What we do is to act as middlemen for the residents and the bus companies, helping them to arrange the sales of monthly tickets and calculating operating costs. We are not operating for profit but as a social service,' he said. According to the Transport Department, there have been 22 applications to operate a residents' service in Tuen Mun district since last year. So far, two have been rejected and seven approved. The others are still being considered.