TfL faces biggest challenge in its history to accommodate mourners, says boss

·3-min read

Transport for London (TfL) is facing the “biggest event and challenge” in its history as more than one million people are expected to travel to the centre of the capital to pay their respects to the Queen, according to its boss.

Andy Byford, the organisation’s commissioner, told the PA news agency that planning for the Queen’s lying in state and funeral is more complicated than the 2012 Olympics as it is “impossible” to accurately predict crowd sizes.

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”, he said.

Transport commissioner Andy Byford
Transport commissioner Andy Byford said TfL staff have ‘dropped everything’ (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Mr Byford added that the situation is being managed “minute by minute” from a command centre alongside other agencies and Government departments.

London Underground stations near Buckingham Palace have seen a surge in passenger numbers since the Queen died on Thursday.

TfL figures show more than 19,000 people started or finished journeys at Hyde Park Corner station on Tuesday, which was double the total on the same day last week.

Green Park has been made an exit only station to prevent overcrowding.

Across the Tube network as a whole, TfL recorded 2.99 million journeys on Tuesday, up 8% compared with a week earlier.

A visitor makes her way from Stratford station to the Olympic Park
Andy Byford said transport planning for the coming days is ‘more challenging’ than the Olympics (Stephen Pond/PA)

Mr Byford said: “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.

“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.

“The Olympics was a huge logistical challenge and operational challenge for TfL, which the company executed in magnificent fashion. But this is different.

“With something like the Olympics, you know what the events are, where they are, and you know what the numbers will be because it’s ticketed.

“This is more challenging. It’s over a long period and although there are estimates, it is impossible to say with certainty how many people will turn up to the various elements, so we’ve assumed the highest possible number and we’re aligning our service to match that.”

The Queen unveils a plaque to mark the Elizabeth line’s official opening at Paddington station in London
The Queen opened the Elizabeth Line in May (Andrew Matthews/PA)

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 added: “We have recruited literally an army of people from across TfL.

“We’ve cancelled non-essential meetings.

“I’ve asked everyone to step up, I’ve asked everyone to volunteer, and the response has been fantastic.

“We’ve dropped everything in order to pull out all the stops and send Her Majesty off in style with an excellent transport offering.

The AA, which is providing signs to direct mourners and provide information on road closures and diversions, advised people to travel by public transport if possible.

AA president Edmund King said: “People planning to travel into Windsor and London should be prepared for delays.

“With traffic building and car parks beginning to fill up in Windsor, we strongly urge well-wishers to use public transport to help keep traffic moving.”