Officials have set out formal plans for the public to pay their respects to the Queen as her coffin lies in state inside the UK parliamentary grounds, amid warnings that those wishing to do so may have to queue overnight.
The Queen’s coffin will be placed in Westminster Hall, an 11th-century building and the oldest in the parliamentary estate, from 5pm on Wednesday until 6.30am on the day of the funeral, next Monday.
Members of the public will be able to file past the coffin 24 hours a day, with police and transport organisations preparing for an influx of people. The Times is predicting that up to 750,000 people may want to attend.
Another estimate, in the Sun, suggested queues could last up to 12 hours. Some barriers have already been put in place for the queue route, which will run east to west along the south of the Thames before passing over Lambeth Bridge and doubling back towards Parliament Square, although people cannot begin queueing yet.
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.
Hotels in London have reported an increase in bookings before the Queen lying in state and her funeral. Travelodge, which has nearly 80 hotels in the city, confirmed demand for rooms had gone up.
A spokesperson said: “As one of London’s largest hotel chains, we are seeing a surge in London bookings from all corners of the UK. Our teams across our 78 London-based Travelodge hotels are working around the clock and gearing up for a busy period in the lead up to the Queen’s state funeral.”
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, and Transport for London, have warned of potentially busy public transport services, and possible congestion on the roads, urging people to factor in enough time for journeys.
Andy Byford, London’s transport commissioner, told the BBC: “We are working with our partners to keep our city moving smoothly and to ensure that everyone who is planning to attend the memorial events can do so safely.”
Security staff attending the queue route to Westminster Hall for the Queen’s lying in state said crowds were expected to swell before Wednesday afternoon.
They told the Press Association news agency that the queue was likely to extend for miles, all the way along the south side of the River Thames to Tower Bridge. People will not be allowed to camp and will be given numbered wristbands to indicate their place in the queue so they can leave and come back, it is understood.
Once at Westminster Hall, the closed coffin will be placed on a raised platform, covered in the royal standard with the orb and sceptre, the most significant symbols of monarchy, placed on top.
Official guidance for the process tells would-be queuers that the line will move continuously, with few chances to rest. People are advised to “dress appropriately for the occasion”, and to remain silent inside the parliamentary estate.
Those entering will face security checks, with only one small bag per person allowed. Flowers, candles and other tributes will not be allowed, nor will folding chairs or camping equipment.
The coffin will be guarded by units from the Sovereign’s Bodyguard, the Household Division, and Yeoman Warders from the Tower of London.
On Monday, the Queen’s body will be taken from the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh to nearby St Giles’ Cathedral, in a family procession led by the new King.
At the cathedral, there will be a thanksgiving service for her life, attended by royals as well as other mourners.
Cammy Day, the leader of Edinburgh council, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland that the city was preparing for large crowds.
He said: “We’re expecting tens of thousands of people to be up and down the high street as her majesty comes up to St Giles’ and then onwards from there tomorrow. Our advice to people is to get to the city centre as quickly and early as you can, use public transport because the city has diversions or road closures.”