Tens of thousands of people have lined up through the city for the opportunity to visit the Queen’s coffin lying-in-state before the funeral on Monday.
Two lines of the general public are walking along either side of the coffin at Westminster Hall paying tribute to Her Majesty by praying, bowing or simply holding a moment’s silence.
Authorities have set up 16 kilometers of airport-style queuing infrastructure with moveable barriers and more than 500 portable toilets along the route.
The hall will be open for 24 hours a day until 6.30am on the day of the monarch’s funeral, September 19.
The UK government predicts more than 750,000 people will try and see the Queen lying-in-state however only 400,000 will be able to enter the hall.
Transport for London’s commissioner Andy Byford said more than 300,000 people will miss out on visiting the Queen’s coffin lying-in-state, the UK Telegraph reports.
“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,” Byford said.
When the Queen Mother’s coffin was lying-in-state over three days in 2002, more than 200,000 people visited the monarch.
However for Queen Elizabeth II, the queues are predicted to be more than double those for her mother.
Two hours before it opened for viewing, the line of mourners stretched for more than three kilometers and kept growing until British media reported it was 16 kilometers long and up to a 30-hour wait.
The government warned those wanting to visit the Queen’s coffin could be waiting a long time.
“You will need to stand for many hours, possibly overnight, with very little opportunity to sit down as the queue will be continuously moving,” it said in a statement.
The line snaked from parliament down the south bank of the River Thames and before winding through another 11 kilometers past the National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate Modern art gallery and Tower Bridge to Southwark Park in south London.
Mammoth undertaking for authorities
The commemorations are a mammoth undertaking for UK authorities.
Transit operator Transport for London estimates that more than one million people will travel to the city center to be part of commemorations through Monday.
But at Westminster Hall, more than 1000 volunteers, stewards, and Metropolitan officers have been deployed to supervise over the next four days.
“It will be guarded around the clock by a vigil of units from the Sovereign’s Bodyguard, the Household Division and Yeoman Warders of the Tower of London,” the government said.
Scouts, Samaritans, The British Red Cross, First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, The Salvation Army and “faith representatives” will be stationed along the queue to help.
“We’ve got 120 young Scouts volunteers from across the UK who are stepping up to support everyone who’ll be paying their respects to Her Majesty The Queen in London this week,” Scouts chief executive Matt Hyde said.
“Scouts have a long history of supporting the nation and serving our communities. We’re honored to play our part.”
St John Ambulance will run eight first aid stations along the route.
Accessibility options to visit the Queen’s coffin
The government said the queue would have step-free access and there would be a separate accessible route starting at the Tate Britain.
Samaritans will have “listening volunteers” on hand in the queue and other places of public mourning to help people process their emotions.
“We know that this news will affect people in different ways, it might be that they are reminded of their own experience of loss or the news has triggered other feelings that people would like to talk about,” chair of Samaritans Keith Leslie said, noting the King is the patron of the organization.
“We know the value of listening and the power of human connection, particularly at times like this, so we encourage anyone struggling with the news to open up – whether that’s with Samaritans, a friend or a family member.
“It can help work through what you are facing and put things into perspective.”
The Queen’s final journey