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Palace doubles length of funeral procession route

The first person arrived to watch the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, yesterday as, for the second day running, Buckingham Palace yielded to public clamour to say farewell to her by dramatically extending the length of her funeral procession.

Martin McCann, 44, from north London, brought a suitcase and umbrella and settled down outside Westminster Abbey. "I am here to pay the respects due to Princess Diana," he said. "I went to RAF Northolt and watched her body fly back and the cortege go to London and I thought it really would be nice to come up here rather than watch it on TV."

Just 24 hours after ruling out any lengthening - but agreeing to "narrow" the procession to give more people access - palace officials said that her body would be taken to Kensington Palace from St James's Palace tomorrow evening before the cortege started its journey on Saturday.

This will more than double the length of the route to accommodate estimates of up to 2 million people converging on central London on Saturday.Transport officials are meeting today to make arrangements to cope with what are expected to be the biggest crowds ever to converge on the capital.

The coffin will leave Kensington Palace at around 10am, carried on a gun carriage by riders of the King's Troop and escorted by mounted police. It will join the rest of the procession at The Mall as originally planned at 10.25am.

The new route passes down Palace Avenue, on to Kensington High Street and Queen's Gate, past the Albert Memorial and along Carriage Road in Hyde Park. It will then pass Apsley House and under Wellington Arch to Constitution Hill and The Mall. A Palace spokesman said they had not bowed to pressure.

"We've always tried to consider a way of lengthening the route in such a way that more people would be able to see the procession in safety," he said. He said that using Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park was a "safe and secure way" of ensuring that.

Earlier the palace announced that two giant television screens would be mounted in Hyde Park to allow more than 100,000 people to get a view of the proceedings. The service will also be transmitted to the crowds outside Westminster Abbey by loudspeaker.

After the service and one-minute silence, the Princess of Wales's coffin will be driven at stately pace through central London, through the north of the city and along the M1 to Northamptonshire. The route taken by the hearse, followed by members of the Royal Family and the Spencer family, will be from the Abbey to Constitution Hill, as it came from St James's Palace.

It will continue to Apsley Way and Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, Park Lane, Cumberland Gate, Tyburn Way, Marble Arch, Oxford Street and Portman Street to Gloucester Place. It will turn towards Lord's cricket ground, along Park Road to Wellington Road, then north along Finchley Road.

From Hendon Way the cortege will pass over the Brent Cross flyover and take the North Circular Road to Staples Corner to the start of the M1. It will go up the motorway at around 40mph and leave it at junction 15A near Wootton in Northamptonshire.

On the motorway it will be followed by a "rolling road block", which traffic will be allowed to follow. The 77-mile route will give hundreds of thousands - possibly millions - of people a chance to see the cortege.

Yesterday, speaking at a press conference in Great Brington, where the Princess's coffin will be laid to rest in the Spencer family mausoleum in the church of St Mary the Virgin, Assistant Chief Constable Frank Whiteley, of Northamptonshire police, urged people to stay away from the village and from the Althorp estate to give Diana's family the privacy they have asked for.

He said after the cortege leaves the motorway it will drive along the A43 at 10mph, then around the outskirts of Northampton before going through Harlestone and on to the main gates of Althorp House, where it will leave public view.

Police have been in consultation with the local parish council and 250 passes allowing villagers access to Great Brington will be issued, along with maps informing the general public of the sealed-off area. Motoring groups urged drivers not to break motorway rules trying to catch a glimpse of Diana's funeral procession.

Extra trains will be laid on to bring people into London, and traffic organisations yesterday urged mourners to use public transport. But there is concern that the capital's infrastructure will be unable to cope with the scale of visitors.

A London transport spokeswoman warned: "There will be massive congestion on the Underground. We would advise people to walk from Waterloo to wherever they are going to watch the procession from."

The estimated 2 million-strong crowd is eclipsed by the 10 million people, 20 per cent of Iran's population, who gathered for the funeral of the country's supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989.