Could London become full? Army to help control ‘never-seen-before’ crowds of mourners

  • Tap above to watch London Mayor Sadiq Khan explain how armed forces are involved in assisting police

Military personnel have been drafted in to help control crowds and traffic in London as the city deals with an unprecedented number of visitors to see the Queen lying in state, the mayor of London has said.

Members of the Armed Forces will support police officers to “assist where it is required” as crowds head to central London on a “massive” scale, Sadiq Khan told ITV News.

“Our city’s never seen the sort of presence we’ll see over the next few days. If you think about the London marathon, the [Notting Hill] carnival, previous royal weddings, the Olympics - it’s all that in one.”

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to pay their respects to the late monarch in the coming days and hundreds of police officers from other forces have already joined the Metropolitan Police in London.

How many people have attended other major events in London?

  • 500,000 - royal wedding in 2011

  • 2,000,000 - Olympics in 2012

  • 1,000,000 - Notting Hill Carnival in 2022

  • 750,000 people watching 45,000 runners - London Marathons

It has been suggested that government officials are planning for at least 750,000 visitors in Westminster, with a Cabinet Office source reported in The Times as saying there is a "very real possibility" that London will become "full" for the first time.

Officially, the government is not putting a figure on how many people it is expecting in the capital to pay their respects to the Queen.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson told ITV News it is “difficult for us to speculate on visitor numbers”, while the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is responsible for crowd control and queueing for events over the coming days, said only that the number of visitors will be “significant”.

Thousands gathered to witness first-hand the moment the Queen leaves Buckingham Palace for the very last time. Credit: PA

The prime minister said any decision on capping the numbers of people able to see the coffin will be made by “those on the ground”.

Liz Truss’ spokesman said he is not aware of a maximum total capacity for the occasion.

“If there is, I’m not aware of a number,” he said. “I mean, I wouldn’t get into detailed operational planning… but I’m not aware of there being some sort of upper cap.”

“Those sorts of decisions (will) really (be) made by those on the ground once we see the scale of people who are attending,” he added.

The Met's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said the force “will be constantly monitoring" crowd control and will adapt it as necessary as part of its policing operation.

As well as the soldiers taking part in ceremonial duties, as many as 1,500 military personnel will be present on the streets of Westminster.

Troops from Wellington Barracks rehearsing for the procession of Queen Elizabeth's coffin on Tuesday morning Credit: PA

"Impossible" to predict crowd numbers

Transport bosses have warned that London will experience "unprecedented travel demand" and operators are scheduling night trains and extra services to cope with the demand.

TfL said it is “impossible” to accurately predict crowd sizes.

Andy Byford, Transport for London’s organisation’s commissioner, said that the unknown number of visitors makes planning for the Queen’s lying in state and funeral more complicated than the 2012 Olympics.

“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.

  • Timelapse footage showing queues stretching across London

“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."

The situation is being managed "minute by minute" from a command centre alongside other agencies and government departments, he said.

Mark Wilson, director of Hotel Direct, said some major London hotel groups had "closed out availability to tour operators and travel agents so they have accommodation for visiting dignitaries".

Visitors from almost every country are expected, with only representatives from Syria, Venezuela or Afghanistan not invited to attend the Queen's funeral.

London’s City Hall said all viewing areas for the procession of the Queen’s coffin from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall on Wednesday are full.

A short statement said there is "no entry to any new arrivals", adding that people should instead head to Hyde Park to watch proceedings on large screens.

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