Six thousand Hong Kong taxi drivers have proposed cutting fares by up to 30 per cent in an attempt to save their Sars-hit business. The proposal by the Urban Taxi Drivers Association Joint Committee was discussed among operators and transport officials yesterday. The committee proposes cutting the flagfall fare by 20 per cent, from $15 to $12, and the subsequent meter fare by 30 per cent from $1.40 to $1. But taxi owners have expressed concerns over the cuts' impact on the value of their licences. After a three-hour meeting, they only agreed to a survey by the Transport Department to find out what drivers and owners want. 'It is already common practice for passengers to ask for illegal discounts. Why not a fare cut to boost business?,' asked Kwok Chi-piu, chairman of the committee, which is Hong Kong's largest and represents roughly a quarter of the city's drivers. The group last year withdrew a fare-cut application due to a lack of consensus. David Leung Siu-cheong, chairman of the Taxi Operators Association, said a lower fare would not bring extra business. 'The reduction will create more income uncertainty and it will finally lead to a licence value slump,' he warned. The Sars outbreak and the war on Iraq have already led to a drop in licence value from $2.8 million in January to $2.6 million in April, which is still $800,000 lower than the peak before the Asian financial crisis of 1997. William Lam Hong-chung, director of Mei Kan Motors which trades taxi licences and vehicles, said the sector was at a difficult crossroads. A fare cut might lead banks to tighten their taxi mortgage policies, he said, but he warned that business might dive further without a fare cut. 'We must take the risk. If we do nothing, the trade will continue to suffer,' Mr Lam said.