Urban taxi fares will be frozen until the first half of 2000, operators' unions said yesterday. Two main groups - the Taxi Associations' Federation and the Taxi Operators' Association - announced that for the first time in eight years they would not seek an annual fare rise. The two groups' combined membership includes 90 per cent of the 150,000 urban taxis. Flagfall and incremental charges for urban taxis are set to remain at $15 and $1.40 per 200 metres respectively, the rate in place since June 1. 'Because of the present economic gloom and low public spending, we feel in principle that the taxi fare should stay the same for next year,' said Taxi Associations' Federation spokesman Ng Kwok-hung. He said the decision was made despite members reporting a drop in business of up to 25 per cent since the financial turmoil started. 'More of our colleagues are working beyond their normal shift hours - eight hours - in order to make ends meet,' he said.