The Daily Telegraph
Plan for carriage to bring coffin south hits buffers
A TRAIN carriage that was modified to carry Queen Elizabeth II’S coffin to London will go unused after plans for the nation to turn out to show its respects along the route were scrapped amid fears for public safety and disruption.
The carriage, said to have been specially converted into a hearse with wide doors and a rotating table to manoeuvre a coffin, was ready to be sent to Scotland with the royal train to bring the late Queen on her final journey.
Plans had been drawn up for the train to make its way slowly south, with members of the public invited to watch it pass while they paid their own tributes.
Rail sources yesterday said the plan had been abandoned at the last minute amid fears that the route would become a magnet for protesters or reckless behaviour that would be too difficult to police.
One claimed the decision was taken in part to give more time for the Queen’s body to lie in state in London, where hundreds of thousands of people are expected to visit the coffin.
A royal source said the plan to use the royal train had only been a relatively recent option, discussed within the past five years but dismissed some time ago on the advice of partner organisations, including the police.
The decision has caused dismay in the rail sector, where staff had been preparing to play their part in the national tribute to the late Queen. One source said: “It’s such a shame and has caused a lot of disappointment.
“I’m sure the public could have been trusted to behave appropriately.”
One worker at Gemini Rail Group’s Wolverton facility, just outside Milton Keynes, confirmed the carriage, called Coach 2921, had been there until last week.
The royal train is usually a diesel locomotive with 10 to 12 coaches. The intention was to have it hauled by a steam engine for the Queen’s journey along the Edinburgh to London route.
‘Millions of folk – and I do mean millions – have been denied that powerful, humble experience’
However, the coffin will now be flown south on an RAF C17 plane.
Rail industry sources have been told the decision was made by Buckingham Palace in line with the Queen’s wishes.
One said that he did not believe it matched her desire to be “seen to be believed”, saying it was a “great shame” those in the North of England would not have a chance to watch the train carry her through local stations on its route to the capital.
The King is now signing off all plans for his mother’s state funeral.
A Palace source said the decision was taken on the advice of numerous organisations, including the police, govern- ment departments and local councils. It is understood it would have caused disruption to public rail timetables. They claimed that the use of the RAF was the original option, to which the plans have now reverted.
Nigel Harris, editor of Rail magazine, said the decision was “wrong-headed”.
He said: “People have been denied their chance to pay their respects to the Queen ... I don’t think she would have gone along with that.”
He added: “Deciding not to use the royal train to take Queen Elizabeth II back home to London on her last journey was, in my view, a major blunder by government, Palace and railway. Millions – and I do mean millions – of folk living south of the Scottish border and north of London have been denied that powerful, humble experience.”
He argued that the choice not to use it on such a momentous occasion would add to arguments to scrap the royal train entirely. “If the railway can’t use this taxpayer-funded asset, when the longest-serving British monarch dies after a 70-year reign, claiming it will trigger mass trespass [and] be unsafe… when will we ever use it?”
Today at 5pm, the late Queen’s coffin will travel from St Giles’ Cathedral to Edinburgh Airport from where it will be flown, at 6pm, to RAF Northolt.
The coffin will be accompanied on the journey by the Princess Royal, and the Very Rev Prof David Fergusson, Dean of the Chapel Royal in Scotland.