TfL faces its ‘biggest challenge’ as vast numbers attend Queen’s lying-in-state
Image credit: PA Wire/PA Images Picture by: Aaron Chown
Transport for London (TfL) boss Andy Byford has said that planning for the lying in state and funeral of Queen Elizabeth is more complicated than the 2012 Olympics as it is "impossible" to accurately predict crowd sizes.
Tenths of thousands of people are expected to travel to the centre of London to pay their respects to the late Queen Elizabeth II as she lies in state at Westminster Hall.
Transport for London (TfL) said that accommodating the transport needs of all the mourners is the "biggest event and challenge” the organisation has faced in its history.
Only yesterday, TfL figures showed more than 19,000 people started or finished journeys at Hyde Park Corner station, double the total on the same day last week. Across the Tube network as a whole, TfL recorded 2.99 million journeys on Tuesday, up 8 per cent compared with a week earlier.
"The most recent approximation or estimate is that there will be around potentially up to 750,000 people in the queue for lying in state, which is itself a huge number," Byford said. "But then if you take the whole 10-day mourning period and the various events that happen during that - obviously some happened elsewhere - but even the London element of that, we are talking well north of a million people.
"So this is huge. This is the biggest event and challenge that TfL has faced in its history, and we must rise to that challenge."
Byford added that the situation was being managed "minute by minute" from a command centre alongside other agencies and government departments. He added that TfL is "used to dealing with big crowds" and will take measures such as temporarily restricting access to the busiest Tube stations and directing passengers to other stations to "spread the load".
In order to prevent overcrowding, Green Park has been made an exit-only station and a special service is expected to run on the Elizabeth Line railway between Paddington and Abbey Wood on Sunday. Byford said TfL has recruited "literally an army of people" and cancelled non-essential meetings to give the Queen the send-off she deserves.
"I've asked everyone to step up, I've asked everyone to volunteer, and the response has been fantastic," he said. "We've dropped everything in order to pull out all the stops and send Her Majesty off in style with an excellent transport offering."
The queue to see the Queen lying-in-state has now passed four miles (6.9km) in length, stretching from Westminster Hall, past Tower Bridge and along the south bank of the River Thames, according to official reports. The UK government has published a live queue tracker to inform people of the location of the back of the queue and provide information regarding services available for mourners.
In addition to the measures put in place by TfL, rail operators have also taken measures to accommodate the influx of passengers going into central London, including running trains through the night and cancelling scheduled engineering work.
Avanti West Coast, which has operated a reduced timetable in recent weeks due to driver shortages, said it is running up to four additional services a day in each direction between London and Manchester from Tuesday.
Southeastern will operate the following overnight services approximately every two hours between Wednesday and Monday: Victoria to Dartford, Gillingham, Orpington and Ashford; Charing Cross to Orpington and Tunbridge Wells; and St Pancras International to Ashford International.
Network Rail has stressed night trains will be "limited" and advised customers should check journey planners for the most up-to-date information.
Despite the measures taken, travellers are still being advised to expect disruptions and delays. The AA, which is providing signs to direct mourners and provide information on road closures and diversions, advised people to travel by public transport if possible to avoid increasing the congestion in the city's roads.
“People planning to travel into Windsor and London should be prepared for delays," said AA president Edmund King. “With traffic building and car parks beginning to fill up in Windsor, we strongly urge well-wishers to use public transport to help keep traffic moving.”
Lying-in-state describes the formal occasion in which a coffin is placed on view to allow the public to pay their respects to the deceased before the funeral ceremony. It is a ceremony given to the Sovereign, the current or past Queen Consort and some former Prime Ministers.
During the lying-in-state period, the Queen's coffin rests on a raised platform in the middle of Westminster Hall, guarded around the clock by units from the Sovereign's Bodyguard, Foot Guards or the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. Members of the public are welcome to visit the Queen's coffin during this time and pay their respects.
The Queen's lying-in-state will be open 24 hours a day until it closes at 6.30 am on Monday 19 September - the day of her funeral.
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