The Daily Telegraph
Capital expects flood of a million mourners
London’s transport chief says the network is preparing for the busiest day in its entire history
‘We’re asking people not to rush home after the funeral, but to take their time and experience London on this memorable day’
MORE than a million mourners wanting to pay their respects to the late Queen are expected to descend on just a square mile of central London today threatening to overwhelm Tube and train stations.
Transport authorities warned wellwishers that stations will be shut at short notice to keep passengers safe.
The potential for chaos could leave mourners unable to reach the area around Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. For those unable or unwilling to travel to central London, there is always the screen.
The funeral of Queen Elizabeth II is expected to be the most watched event in television history as churches, pubs and cinemas throw open their doors for a communal viewing experience.
Andy Byford, Commissioner of Transport for London (TFL), said the Tube and bus network was preparing for what may prove to be the busiest day it “has ever faced”.
Road closures – part of the ring of steel to protect mourners – risk causing gridlock in parts of the capital if motorists do attempt to drive.
TFL has warned travellers to take trains or walk, rather than even cycle to the centre of London. Victoria Coach station, the biggest and busiest in the UK, is shut for the day.
There are fears the transport network will be overwhelmed this afternoon if too many people visiting the capital travel home immediately after the end of the funeral.
The biggest crowds will gather in an area of about a square mile that stretches from Westminster Abbey, where the funeral service is taking place, to Wellington Arch, at the edge of Hyde Park, where the Queen’s body will be taken from a gun carriage and placed on the state hearse for the drive to Windsor Castle.
Mourners are being urged to delay their return journeys and check for travel updates. Around 250 extra rail services will run – including some overnight trains – and National Highways has suspended planned motorway closures across England.
Mr Byford said yesterday: “We’re ready for probably one of the busiest days Transport for London has ever faced. It’s hard to say exactly how many additional people [will travel], but we’re preparing for potentially a million people just within the footprint of the royal palaces and Hyde Park.”
He said the capital has seen “huge numbers of additional passengers” since the Queen died on Sept 8, but demand will “reach a climax” today.
Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, said: “This is the biggest public transport operation since the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and we’re working closely with all train operators to run extra trains through the day and into the night.
“To help us provide the best possible experience and avoid lengthy queues at stations we’re asking people not to rush home after the funeral and the processions, but to take their time and experience London on this memorable day.”
All-night trains will serve limited destinations, mostly within the M25, while stationary trains are being used as waiting areas in the early hours of the morning for people wanting to get home.
National Highways is deploying additional traffic officers on motorways and major A roads around London to carry out patrols, keep vehicles moving and assist the emergency services in clearing incidents.
Three Tube stations – Westminster, St James’s Park and Hyde Park Corner – will be closed for most of this morning to avoid overcrowding.
Other stations in the area may be shut at short notice if there is a risk of dangerous overcrowding.
Passengers arriving at mainline railway stations are being advised to continue their journeys on foot rather than use public transport.
More than 100 Heathrow Airport flights will be cancelled to prevent aircraft noise disturbing the proceedings at Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle.
The airport has announced that 15 per cent of its 1,200 flights due to take off or land today will be disrupted.