UNITED Democrat legislators yesterday asked the Government to reconsider its privatisation plan for the Western Harbour Crossing, proposing that taxpayers' money be used to fund the $7.5 billion tunnel. The suggestion came after Secretary for Transport Yeung Kai-yin refused to re-open negotiations with the consortium awarded the contract to build and run the tunnel. The 13-member party, unhappy about the profit-guarantee mechanism for the tunnel operator, will decide whether to vote against the tunnel bill or put forward an amendment after meeting representatives of the consortium tomorrow. Party member Cheung Man-kwong said the Western Harbour Crossing Bill, if passed, would set a bad precedent of taking away the council's power to monitor public service companies. He asked the Government to consider building the tunnel itself, if the consortium withdrew from the project because of less favourable franchise terms. The tunnel was a lucrative project, which could generate huge revenue for the public coffers, he said. According to Government estimates, the consortium is expected to earn total net revenue ranging from $60 billion to $83.7 billion during its 30-year franchise. The consortium is expected to fund the project through an equity worth $2.4 billion, and borrow the remainder. It is estimated that the consortium will recoup its $2.4 billion outlay by 2006. The $5.1 billion loan will be repaid in 2008. But Mr Yeung said it was not the Government's policy to take on major infrastructure projects when the private sector was interested. ''After all, the Government can have a tunnel without spending any money,'' he said, adding that the $7.5 billion could be used to improve people's lives. He did not want to send the wrong message to investors in other major projects.