The Daily Telegraph

Strikes hit trains for mourners in the North

Elderly told it will be hard to sit down in ever-moving 30-hour line amid fears ‘we are sleepwalki­ng into a difficult situation’

- By Robert Mendick and Daniel Capurro

One of Britain’s busiest railways will be unable to lay on extra services to London this weekend as bosses grapple with an industrial dispute. Thousands of mourners hoping to travel from Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow face disappoint­ment from the fallout of a row over pay and working conditions on the 399-mile Avanti west coast main line. Train operators had said they would run extra services to allow an estimated 750,000 mourners to travel to London.

‘You will need to stand for many hours, possibly overnight, with very little opportunit­y to sit down as the queue will keep moving’

‘We’re going to see some horrible stories about people suffering trying to pay their respects – there’s got to be a better way of doing these things’

AS MANY as 400,000 people will see Queen Elizabeth II’S coffin lie in state amid growing concern that five-mile queues will “see some horrible stories about people suffering” in order to pay their respects.

The Government warned the public to “be prepared for long queues” and told parents to think twice before taking children along.

The queue will be cut off at the point at which authoritie­s believe newcomers would not be able to see the coffin, which will go on show at Westminste­r Hall from 5pm today until 6.30am on Monday, the day of her funeral.

Sources said if the queue runs smoothly about 400,000 people will be able to pay their respects – twice the number who saw the Queen Mother following her death in 2002.

Ministers have suggested mourners may have to wait for up to 30 hours.

Wellwisher­s will be given colourcode­d, numbered wristbands before they join the queue that will allow them to leave the line “for a short period” in order to use the lavatory or buy food and drink.

In a word of caution, official guidance issued last night states: “You will need to stand for many hours, possibly overnight, with very little opportunit­y to sit down, as the queue will keep moving.”

Stewards have been told to look out for struggling vulnerable and elderly people who can be pulled out of the queue, “given a cup of tea” and, if possible, reinserted closer to the front.

The Government will use Twitter to issue updates. At its maximum length the queue will stretch for almost five miles from Southwark Park, running along the south bank of the Thames before crossing the river at Lambeth Bridge and doubling back to Westminste­r Hall. Live video feeds on the BBC’S red-button service will also show where the back of the queue can be found.

A separate shorter line will be in place for people with disabiliti­es.

No specific provision was made for the elderly while authoritie­s warned people, “especially those with pre-existing medical conditions”, to “be prepared for significan­t wait times, including possibly overnight”.

No documentat­ion checks will be made to ensure people are not “gaming the system” and faking disabiliti­es to join the shorter queue. Being elderly will not be sufficient reason to be allowed in the separate accessible route, which starts at Tate Britain, where timed entry slots will be handed out.

Dame Esther Rantzen, the broadcaste­r and founder of The Silver Line charity for the elderly, said the lengthy queues would force older people to stay at home and watch events on TV.

“I think it will be impossible for elderly people who are at all fragile to queue,” said Dame Esther, 82.

“Some elderly people, like we see with David Attenborou­gh, are amazingly fit and strong but it’s going to be tough, there is no question. It is just too long a queue for many.

“The elderly will be the people most wanting to pay their respects; they grew up with her. But if you are, as I am, in your 80s you have to accept the fact it is going to be too tough to attend.”

Jonathan Haslam, who was chief communicat­ions secretary to former prime minister John Major, criticised the basic queuing system and suggested a ticketing operation would have

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