Concessions of up to 25pc are rejected by two thirds of the industry despite the prevailing economic conditions Most urban taxi operators have turned their backs on their New Territories colleagues and refused to accept a government move to cut fares despite the market gloom, according to a survey by the Transport Department. But some taxi drivers have warned the refusal to accept a cut in fares will boost the businesses of black market taxi syndicates that are providing illegal discounts. The department announced its findings yesterday, a week after the government launched its one-month pilot fare concession scheme for all taxis in the New Territories. The cut has reduced fares by up to 25 per cent. But the survey findings show 66 per cent of urban taxi operators, including drivers and owners, refuse to accept fare concessions to attract businesses, compared to only 27 per cent who support the move. The poll of 15,129 cab drivers and 8,313 owners, done at the request of the industry, was conducted by the department between May 25 and June 8. The findings show 60 per cent of cab drivers are against fare cuts, compared with only 29 per cent who support it. For taxi owners, 72 per cent reject fare concessions, compared with 25 per cent who support the move. Kwok Chi-pui, chairman of the Urban Taxi Drivers' Association Joint Committee, which has about 6,000 members, said he was disappointed with the findings as he saw the need to reduce fares temporarily to combat illegal discounting among a few drivers. But he said his association would not apply for a fare concession for the time being because of those findings. 'We are very disappointed with the findings. The practice of illegal discounting is rampant nowadays. Different interests may explain the poll findings,' Mr Kwok said. Ng Kwok-hung, chairman of the 5,000-member Fraternity Taxi Owners' Association, shared the same concerns. Mr Ng called on the government to step up operations to crack down on illegal activities, including fare cuts and bugging of call stations by taxi drivers who tried to steal businesses from their colleagues. Secretary for Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao Sau-tung said she would study the findings before coming up with further plans for the industry. Speaking on the Radio Television Hong Kong programme Accountability yesterday, Dr Liao also said she was aware of some syndicates set up by taxi operators that offered illegal discounts. 'I have been told that there are some groups in the trade which have their own networks that offer rides on a 20 per cent discount for passengers,' she said. 'However, it is illegal for drivers to offer discounts to attract business. Some drivers also complained their service calls had been bugged, which is also outlawed. 'So we are working with police and the Telecommunications Authority to crack down on those illegal trades.' Dr Liao also defended the controversial New Territories fare concession scheme yesterday after being booed and shunned when she met drivers on Friday. Dr Liao said the government simply tried to provide a business opportunity for the taxi industry by introducing the fare concession scheme to attract business. But she said the government would estimate the benefits of the scheme by reading taxi meters, which indicate exactly how good or bad business was. She also insisted the scheme was the result of a consensus among the majority of operators in the trade, including drivers and owners. Meanwhile, Dr Liao said she was considering merging her bureau with the other departments that she leads, adding she would have more concrete plans next year. She also said Citybus and New World First Bus would have to continue to operate independently and separately before the government approved the proposed merger of Hong Kong island's two main bus companies.