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London braced for 1m mourners with ‘35-hour’ waits to see Queen’s coffin

Transport bosses warn of ‘unprecedented demand’ ahead of the Queen’s lying in state in London

Thomas Kingsley
Tuesday 13 September 2022 19:23 BST
Royal Company of Archers marches down Royal Mile to move Queen’s coffin

London could reach “bursting point” this week as up to 1 million mourners are expected to descend on the capital to pay respects to the Queen as her coffin lies in state.

Authorities have said visitors hoping to see the late monarch’s coffin at Westminster Hall could face queues of up to 35 hours and will be expected to stand for long periods of time as public viewing runs from 5pm Wednesday until 6.30am on Monday, 19 September, the day of the funeral.

New Metropolitan Police chief, Sir Mark Rowley, who first joined planning for the Queen’s death “five or six years ago”, said the lying in state presented a “massive challenge” and would involve thousands of officers to ensure well-wishers can pay their respects safely.

Royal fans are already sleeping on pavements before the line even opens, with Downing Street saying organisers on the ground would make a decision on any “cut-off point” once they see the “scale of people who are attending”.

Officials expect a maximum of 350,000 people will be able to view the Queen’s coffin, despite the venue being open 24 hours a day.

The Queen’s coffin will arrive in London on Tuesday night (Reuters)

The government has warned commuters they may want to avoid central London this week because it will be “extremely busy”, with rail bosses saying overcrowding is likely.

A meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency planning committee was told yesterday that the estimated queueing times for Westminster Hall could be up to 35 hours, with the number of people expected to visit the capital estimated to total between 750,000 and a million, according to reports.

Mourners have already begun setting up tents to view the Queen’s coffin (AFP/Getty)

Mourners faced 10-hour queues in Edinburgh where the Queen laid in rest at St Giles’ Cathedral. More than 26,000 people saw the coffin, but they only got less than a minute to pay their respects.

Here is what to expect in the next five days across London.


Mourners in Edinburgh faced queues up to 12 hours to view the Queen lying in state (PA)

An elaborate plan codenamed Operation Feather is being led by the Metropolitan Police to ensure there is a safe and efficient queuing system.

Visitors will also go through airport-style security and there are tight restrictions on what you can take in.

A string of items are banned, including any camping equipment, large bags, flowers and cuddly toys, and banners or placards which could be used to “cause a disturbance”.

This will be a shock to mourners, many of whom have already begun setting up tents in the hope of avoiding long queues.

Authorities have also provided guidance on dress code including warning against clothing with “political or offensive slogans”.

The queue is likely to snake along the south bank of the Thames, past Tower Bridge, and as far as Southwark Park – a route 4.9 miles long. There will also be a “special access” queue set up from Tate Britain for those with disabilities, and restaurants and cafes will be open through the night.

Churches along the route will be asked to provide support to those waiting.

Queen’s lying in state: route of queue (PA Graphics)


Rail capacity is set to be doubled on some lines as Network Rail warned of “unprecedented travel demand”. Transport for London (TfL) said some stations could be closed, while temporary queuing measures could be put in place if there are crowd control issues.

Underground stations near Buckingham Palace are already experiencing a surge in demand with travellers urged to avoid Green Park station and walk from nearby stops to reach key monuments.

According to TfL, passenger numbers in the capital spiked significantly over the weekend as mourners flocked to pay their respects to the Queen. On Saturday (10 September 2022) TfL saw 2.49 million Tube journeys across London up 85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels while On Sunday (11 September 2022) TfL saw 1.79 million Tube journeys across London – up 86 per cent.

Green Park saw 102,518 passengers pass through on Saturday – up 80 per cent from the week before. Hyde Park Corner, on the Piccadilly line, saw 14,564 passengers – up 78 per cent while Piccadily Circus welcomed 90,920 passengers – up 22 per cent.

The trend continued into Sunday across central London stations with passenger numbers also up week-on-week at St James’s Park – up 156 per cent to 25,236, Hyde Park Corner – up 140 per cent to 18,865 and Green Park – up 59 per cent to 63,793.

The Cabinet Office has been preparing for the “very real possibility” that London will reach capacity, reported The Times.

A rail source told the newspaper: “There is real concern the capital will reach bursting point. All the planning has been done by the Cabinet Office as part of Operation London Bridge and it will be for officials to tell the rail industry to instruct passengers not to travel.”

Flowers at Green Park in central London (Getty)

Andy Byford, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “I would urge all customers to check before they travel, using the TfL website or TfL Go app, as while we’re planning to run a normal service, there may be short notice changes and diversions as a result of the large number of people travelling and necessary road closures.”

Policing and Security

New Met Police chief Sir Mark Rowley said his top priority in his first week was ensuring Londoners and visitors can safely pay respects to the Queen.

Metropolitan Police officers, as well as Welsh police officers, are manning the expected route, parts of which are already lined with barriers. After the Tate, it is unclear where the queue to see the coffin will flow beyond there, security staff say.

Around 10,000 police officers could be on duty every day in London in the lead-up to the Queen’s funeral as part of the biggest security operation the country has ever seen.

Police officers stand amongst floral tributes left outside Buckingham Palace (PA)

Three Premier League matches have already been postponed this weekend due to policing restrictions.

Chelsea’s home game with Liverpool and Leeds United’s trip to Manchester United has been called off.

“Following extensive consultation with clubs, police, local safety advisory groups and other relevant authorities, there was no other option but to postpone the three fixtures,” said a Premier League statement.

Chelsea’s game against Red Bull Salzburg in the Champions League on Wednesday is still on, but Arsenal’s Europa League tie with PSV Eindhoven on Thursday has been postponed.


The Queen’s coffin will be taken to rest at Buckingham Palace’s Bow Room (PA Wire)

Hotel prices are up to four times higher on Sunday – the night before the funeral – compared with a week later, analysis by the PA news agency found.

The cheapest room at Park Plaza County Hall – one of the closest hotels to Westminster Abbey – on Sunday night costs £1,299 compared with £269 seven days later.

Crowne Plaza London Albert Embankment is charging £708 on the eve of the funeral, which is nearly three times more than on Sunday, 25 September, when the price is £244. Rooms at Novotel London Waterloo cost £490 on Sunday and £241 a week later.

Many hotels near Westminster Abbey owned by lower-priced chains, such as Premier Inn and Travelodge, are fully booked for Sunday. Premier Inn has no rooms left at several of its sites, including London County Hall, London Waterloo (Westminster Bridge) and London Victoria.

Members of the public view floral tributes in Green Park, near Buckingham Palace (PA)

A spokesperson for Travelodge said: “As one of London’s largest hoteliers, our teams across our 78 London-based Travelodge hotels are working around the clock and gearing up for a busy period in the lead-up to the Queen’s state funeral.

“Our Travelodge hotels in central London and Windsor are literally sold out, and demand is growing strong for our hotels situated near to a train or Tube station throughout Greater London.

“Our website is attracting visitors from all corners of the UK and across the globe.”

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency, added: “Demand to stay in London over the next fortnight, especially from foreign delegations, is at its highest level since the Olympics in 2012.”

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