Why CAN’T more people bid Her Majesty farewell? Calls grow for monarch’s final journey to Windsor to be extended as it emerges only 400,000 mourners could see the lying-in-state
- Up to a million people are expected to seek to pay respects to the Queen’s coffin
- But more than half of them could be turned away disappointed after long waits
- Millions of people are expected to flock to London in the coming days
- Full coverage: Click here to see all our coverage of the Queen’s passing
Millions could miss out on paying their final respects to the Queen, it was warned last night.
From today mourners will be able to bid farewell to the monarch as she lies in state at Westminster Hall until her funeral on Monday.
But they face having to join a line snaking back up to five miles – and could have to queue for as long as 35 hours.
Up to a million people are expected to seek to pay their respects to her coffin in central London.
But officials estimate that at most 400,000 will be able to do so – meaning more than half could be turned away disappointed.
There were calls yesterday to lengthen the Queen’s final journey to her resting place at Windsor Castle to maximise the number of people who can line the route.
Up to a million people are expected to seek to pay their respects to her coffin in central London. The Queen’s coffin is pictured above leaving RAF Northolt, west London on the way to Buckingham Palace
Whitehall officials said plans were in place to fast-track vulnerable people in the queue for the lying-in-state and ensure as many people as possible get a chance to say goodbye.
But experts including a former Downing Street adviser warned making people wait overnight – especially the elderly – risked doing them harm.
Yesterday a 75-year-old grandfather in the queue was the first to buckle.
The arrangements for marking the monarch’s death have come under intense scrutiny, with millions expected to flock to London in the coming days. Last night the Queen was returned from Edinburgh to London by the RAF.
But the decision to cancel proposals to transport her coffin by the Royal Train meant far fewer people could witness the spectacle.
The Government last night published details for people wanting to file past the Queen’s coffin at Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster.
Her lying-in-state begins at 5pm today and lasts four-and-a-half days until her state funeral on Monday. It will be open 24 hours a day
Ministers have warned the queue, stretching along the Thames, could last between 17 and 35 hours, with little opportunity to sit down or sleep.
Families have been advised to consider whether children can cope. Some 1,500 soldiers, sailors and airmen have been drafted in to assist stewards.
Experts including a former Downing Street adviser warned making people wait overnight – especially the elderly – risked doing them harm. Yesterday a 75-year-old grandfather in the queue was the first to buckle
Jonathan Haslam, communications director at No 10 under Sir John Major, said: ‘It is marvellous that so many want to pay their respects to Her Majesty. But not everyone will be able to do so in person.
‘There has been a reality failure by the planners. When someone said, ‘People could be queueing for 30 hours’, who said, ‘That’s insane, we need a better answer’?’
He told Times Radio: ‘I’ve got real concerns about the health of people of my generation, and even younger people.
‘Good people may be doing themselves harm by joining long queues. Her Majesty would not have wanted that, nor does the King. There are fair ways of getting as many people as possible through Westminster Hall efficiently. Sensibly-allocated number-timed tickets, using the technology we have, would been a sensible way forward. I have a fear that we might be sleepwalking into a really difficult situation.’
Mourners began queueing at midday on Monday, some 53 hours before the start of the lying-in-state at 5pm today, along the embankment on the south side of Lambeth Bridge.
One of the first to arrive, 75-year-old David Carlson, buckled in the rain yesterday. The former soldier, of Wandsworth, south London, refused to sacrifice his place and vowed to walk into Westminster Hall today ‘if it’s the last thing I do’.
In true British style the queue has taken on a carnival atmosphere. It was joined by the Archbishop of York leading a singsong last night, who said: ‘The Queen’s last gift was to bring us all together.’ He declared the strength of the mourners ‘an inspiration’.
People are pictured above in 1952 waiting in line to pay their respects to King George VI in London’s Great Hall of Westminster
Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of the Silver Line charity, said: ‘A lot of people want to take part in the historic moment and see the lying-in-state. But for anyone fragile, I am worried it may be impossible for them to see the late Queen’s coffin.
‘The long queues could be a real problem, and a timed-ticket system would have been a very good idea.’
Whitehall officials have stressed that frail and elderly people struggling with the physical demands of the queue will be fast-tracked.
A Government source said stewards will be asked to ‘proactively’ identify them and ensure they get assistance. They said: ‘They will take them out of the queue, sit them down and make sure they are OK, and then look to see if they can be moved forward in the queue to make it easier for them.
‘For the first time there will also be a special access queue, with timed access for those whose circumstances mean they cannot queue for long periods.’
Officials have based models on estimates that around 3,000 people an hour can pass through Westminster Hall. But one source said this was ‘on the conservative side’, and could end up significantly higher.
The Government has secured 500 portable toilets, to be installed along the queue. Some public buildings will also be opening their facilities.
Officials also plan to provide predicted queuing times, but a source acknowledged these would initially be ‘rough and ready estimates’.
Downing Street denied there would be a cap on visitor numbers but said some who want to pay their respects in person are likely to be disappointed.
The PM’s spokesman said: ‘We do want everyone who wants her to see her to be able to but we recognise there is a limited amount of time and a great deal of people who wish to do so.’
After Monday’s state funeral the coffin will follow a ‘processional route’ to Hyde Park Corner then transfer to a hearse to travel to the final committal at Windsor Castle. There have been calls to extend the route so more people can witness Her Majesty’s final journey.
Source: Read Full Article