Transport Secretary Eva Cheng has rejected a proposal by the deputy chairman of Legco's transport panel to buy Citic Pacific's stakes in the Eastern and Western harbour tunnels now rather than wait for the results of a study on tunnel operations. The buy-back was suggested as a way to give the government more control over toll prices as it seeks to better manage traffic at the city's three cross-harbour tunnels. But Ms Cheng said buying Citic's 35 per cent stake in the Western Harbour Tunnel Co would not give the government majority control. Democratic legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo made the suggestion on Wednesday, arguing that Citic's financial troubles put the government in a strong bargaining position. He suggested paying HK$2 billion to HK$3 billion for Citic's stake in the Western tunnel, and up to HK$5 billion for 71 per cent of the shares in New Hong Kong Tunnel Company, which manages the Eastern Harbour Tunnel. He said the government should abandon its study on pricing and congestion and start negotiating with Citic now. Ms Cheng dismissed the notion. 'If we are to seek funding from the Legislative Council to buy back the tunnels, we need facts and numbers to support our decision - why would it cost such an amount, whether it would help resolve congestion,' Ms Cheng said. 'We don't just come up with some random figures.' She said the government could negotiate with the two companies and conduct the study at the same time. 'We will persist with our ongoing negotiation [with the tunnels' operator] while the study is under way.' The HK$7 million study is aimed at finding the right mix of traffic at the three harbour crossings. The study will seek to price the two tunnels, which have eight and 15 years of franchised operation. It will also try to find out the legal implications if the government sought to transfer the stake of the tunnels to a third party - such as a bureau which will oversee the operation of the three tunnels.