FOUR in five voters are against or unsure about Government plans to reprivatise the East Coast Main Line which connects Edinburgh and London, a survey has found.

The poll of more than 1000 adults found a majority (58%) were opposed to plans to hand the franchise back to private train operators when the current lease ends, while one in five (21%) are unsure about the proposals.

The poll, carried out by ­Survation for the campaign group We Own it, also shows far more Conservative voters are against (48%) taking the East Coast out of public ownership, than are in favour of it (28%).

The findings come as rail campaigners prepare to hold protests against the plans at 11 East Coast Main Line stations today, including London King's Cross and Newcastle, claiming reprivatising the East Coast is bad for commuters and taxpayers.

Analysis published today by Action for Rail shows that since returning to state control in 2009 the East Coast Main Line has returned £602 million to the ­Treasury – over £220m more than the Virgin-operated West Coast line.

By 2014 it is expected to be generating over £800million for the Treasury.

Action for Rail says the ­government's decision to push ahead with the reprivatisation shows ministers are putting ­ideology before evidence and ignoring the wishes of voters.

TUC General Secretary and chairman of the Action for Rail campaign, Frances O'Grady, said: "The government is once again putting ideology before evidence in its desire to hand the East Coast Main Line back to private train companies.

"Ministers seem intent on ignoring the successes re-nationalisation has brought over the last four years, such as record customer satisfaction, because it does not fit with their privatisation agenda. The vast majority of the general public, however, do not want the East Coast Main Line to leave public ownership – ­including a very large swathe of Conservative voters.

"Taxpayers and commuters understand that rail privatisation has become a licence to print money for train companies with huge amounts of public funds being siphoned off into shareholders' pockets.

"This must not be allowed to happen with the East Coast Main Line."

RMT General Secretary Bob Crowe said: "If you wanted the clearest possible evidence that this government is all about siphoning cash out of our ­railways and straight into the pockets of their big business backers, regardless of the cost to the taxpayer, you need look no further than the scandalous plans to re-privatise the East Coast.

"Twice the private sector have had a spin of the roulette wheel on this franchise and twice they have failed, with the public sector not only sweeping up the mess but delivering hundreds of millions of pounds in investment and returns to the British people.

"RMT will do all in its power to stop the racket of rail privatisation in its tracks."

Unite acting national officer for the rail industry Ian Wood said: "Britain needs a unified national rail service to provide a joined-up and cheaper service for ­passengers and freight users which would assist economic recovery.

"Such a system would also provide long-term security for hard-working staff."

Helen McArdle