Mourners hoping to travel to London to pay their respects to the Queen are being told to prepare for “unprecedented” demand on transport and in stations, with hundreds of thousands expected to make the trip.
As many as 750,000 people are expected to travel to the capital from Wednesday to pay respects to the late monarch as she lies in state for four days before her funeral on Monday. The public have been warned they may face 12-hour queues to see her coffin in Westminster Hall.
Network Rail, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and Transport for London (TfL) urged travellers to plan ahead and to expect crowded services and congested stations, adding that passengers should consider walking to their final destinations in the capital if possible.
TfL said not to drive in London if possible – and to avoid Green Park tube station altogether if travelling on public transport – with other stations including Westminster, Victoria, Waterloo, Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch also expected to be extremely busy.
“It is expected that we will see unprecedented travel demand in the capital, especially from Wednesday 14 September,” the three organisations said on Monday.
RDG, which represents all rail operators, said that on the day of the funeral it would not be possible to view the funeral in London and then travel to Windsor, where the Queen will be laid to rest.
“Understandably, many people wish to pay their respects to Her Majesty the Queen during this period of national mourning,” said Jason Webb, the customer information director at RDG. “On the day of the funeral, Monday 19 September, people should plan carefully the timing of their journey home, as trains and stations are likely to be extremely busy.”
Travellers were warned that while London Underground will operate as normal, there may need to be some “short-term safety measures” such as queueing, closures, non-stopping trains or changes to the way customers enter or exit a station.
Road closures will mean that some buses will be diverted or stop short of their destination, with some running a reduced service.
“Roads and public transport in and around central London will be very busy,” the organisations said. “London Underground and rail services will be the best ways to get around central London.”
TfL is also running a special service between Paddington and Abbey Wood on Sunday – it is usually closed on Sundays for testing and software updates – with 12 trains running every hour to ease pressure on the rest of London’s transport network.
Tube stations that are located close to Buckingham Palace are already experiencing increased demand as people travel to pay their respects. About 30,000 people used St James’s Park station on Saturday – almost triple the number that did so a week earlier.
Other tube stations that have been significantly busier include Green Park, up 80% week-on-week to 102,518 on Saturday, Charing Cross, which experienced a 64% uplift in traffic to 40,119, and Hyde Park Corner, which recorded a 78% surge to 14,564.
Similar trends were seen on Sunday, with the same stations up 156%, 59%, 55% and 140% respectively.
The travel warnings came after London Underground services suffered severe disruption on Monday morning because of what TfL described as “power supply problems”.
The entire Victoria line was suspended at about 7am, before later reopening. The Piccadilly line was suspended between Hyde Park Corner and Cockfosters, with severe delays on the rest of the line.
Tube stations including Oxford Circus and King’s Cross were evacuated and closed because of the problem.
Hotels in the capital have reported an increase in bookings over the official mourning period. Travelodge, which has almost 80 hotels in the city, said it has “seen a surge in London bookings from all corners of the UK”.
The last person to lie in state in the UK was the Queen Mother. An estimated 200,000 people visited Westminster Hall to pay their respects before her funeral on 9 April 2002.