Fares will drop by up to a quarter; urban drivers are watching A fare cut designed to help boost the ailing New Territories taxi trade will take effect on Sunday. The six-month concession - proposed by taxi operators - will cut the cost of longer journeys by nearly a quarter. Commissioner for Transport Robert Footman said the move was very unusual and it remained to be seen whether the concessions 'will attract more passengers or not'. Mr Footman said there was 'no precedent in recent memory in Hong Kong' for cutting taxi fares. 'The trade decided ... to implement this scheme ... The thinking is that this will make them more competitive,' he said. The flag fall will remain $12.50 and the first seven jumps of the meter will be charged at the usual $1.20 each. The concession kicks in after that, with each subsequent journey stage costing only 90 cents - a cut of 25 per cent. The Executive Council approved the fare cut yesterday. Given that the concession is temporary, Mr Footman said taxi operators would not be required to recalibrate meters. Instead, drivers would be issued a new fare table, to be displayed inside their vehicles. Kowloon and Hong Kong island taxi operators are debating whether to follow their New Territories counterparts in slashing fares. The Transport Department said it sent out questionnaires to such operators last week asking whether they supported concessionary fares. Mr Footman said replies were expected by next week. The commissioner said: 'It's difficult to see the ramifications [of the New Territories scheme] or [its] impact on different parties. We are well aware that there may be some negative feedback, particularly from the drivers, but that's understandable.' The department would monitor the scheme's progress. 'We have experience with fare increases, but not fare decreases. Will it stimulate [the trade]? We need some 'settling down time' to see the effects. It shouldn't take long. 'The circumstances around the taxi trade are constantly changing, as with the impact of Sars on passenger numbers and the [subsequent] lowering of taxi rents, and equilibrium is soon found again.' Mr Footman said no other public transit operators had complained formally to the Transport Department yet. It has been suggested the concession scheme may draw passengers away from bus and minibus operators, themselves hit by falling business.