Transport for London is facing the “biggest event and challenge” in its history as tens of thousands of people prepare to travel to the capital to pay tribute to the Queen.
Speaking ahead of the late monarch’s lying in state, Andy Byford, the TfL commissioner, said that planning for today and the funeral was more complicated than the 2012 Olympics as it was “impossible” to accurately predict crowd sizes.
He also said the situation was being managed “minute by minute” from a command centre alongside other agencies and government departments.
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“The most recent approximation or estimate is that there will be around potentially up to 750,000 people in the queue for lying in state, which is itself a huge number,” Mr Byford said.
“But then if you take the whole 10-day mourning period and the various events that happen during that – obviously some happened elsewhere – but even the London element of that, we are talking well north of a million people.
“So this is huge. This is the biggest event and challenge that TfL has faced in its history, and we must rise to that challenge.”
Since last Thursday, passengers have surged at London Underground stations near Buckingham Palace.
TfL figures show more than 19,000 people started or finished journeys at Hyde Park Corner station yesterday, double the total on the same day last week.
Mr Byford said TfL is “used to dealing with big crowds” and will take measures such as temporarily restricting access to the busiest Tube stations and directing passengers to other stations to “spread the load”.
Green Park has already been made an exit-only station to prevent overcrowding.
A special service will run on the Elizabeth Line railway between Paddington and Abbey Wood on Sunday to ease the pressure on other parts of London’s transport network.
That section of the line – which was opened by the Queen in May – is usually closed on Sundays due to testing and software updates.
Mr Byford said TfL have recruited “literally an army of people” and cancelled non-essential meetings to give the Queen the send-off she deserves.
“I’ve asked everyone to step up, I’ve asked everyone to volunteer, and the response has been fantastic,” he said.
“We’ve dropped everything in order to pull out all the stops and send Her Majesty off in style with an excellent transport offering.”
Trains will run ‘through the night’
Rail operators have also been setting out how they plan to manage the huge influx of passengers heading to London.
Some services will run through the night while planned engineering work has been cancelled to allow more trains to go in and out of the capital.
The Queen’s lying in state will be open 24 hours a day until it closes at 6.30am on Monday 19 September – the day of her funeral.
Southeastern will operate the following overnight services approximately every two hours between Wednesday and Monday: Victoria to Dartford, Gillingham, Orpington and Ashford; Charing Cross to Orpington and Tunbridge Wells; and St Pancras International to Ashford International.
Network Rail has stressed night trains will be “limited” and advised customers should check journey planners for the most up-to-date information.
Most rail operators are expected to run additional rail services during the day – though details are still being finalised.
Avanti West Coast, which has operated a reduced timetable in recent weeks due to driver shortages, said it is running up to four additional services a day in each direction between London and Manchester from Tuesday.
Route revealed for queue to see the Queen lying in state
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Road closures paused
Meanwhile, National Highways announced it has paused planned closures of motorways serving London until after the funeral, to reduce congestion.
It said existing roadworks will be removed “where possible”, with cones and temporary signs withdrawn from 6am on Friday until the following Tuesday.
National Express said London Victoria Coach station will be closed on Monday, when most of its London services will be diverted via Wembley Stadium.