Queen Elizabeth II’s late-in-state regal symbolism, strong spirit – and an opportunity for a very long line. Marshaling hundreds of thousands of people wishing to see the late emperor’s coffin will test Britain’s famous queuing skills to their limits.
Officials overseeing the huge logistics challenge have consulted with queue management experts and behavioral scientists to create a line not so much as a temporary community. It has a 10-mile (16 kilometer) “queuing infrastructure”, including walkable barriers and more than 500 portable toilets along a path leading to Westminster Hall of Parliament, where the coffin will rest.
Hundreds of managers, police officers and first aid volunteers, 30 multi-faith pastors and two sign language interpreters have been appointed to look after the welfare of those waiting in line.
The Queen’s coffin is due to move from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall on Wednesday, where it will remain in state from 5pm (1600 GMT) to 6.30am (0530 GMT) on Monday, the day of her funeral.
Hours before the arrival of the coffin, mourners lined up across Lambeth Bridge from Parliament and thronged the southern bank of the River Thames. The designated route spans 6.9 miles (11 kilometers) from the National Theatre, Shakespeare Globe, Tate Modern Art Gallery and Tower Bridge.
Southwark Park is in South London, which can accommodate another 3 miles (4.8 km) of zigzagging queues.
Officials say they cannot estimate how many people will line up to pay tribute at Westminster Hall, but there are likely more than 200,000 who visited Queen Mother Elizabeth’s coffin over three days in 2002. Transit operator Transport for London estimates more than 1 million people will travel to the city center to be part of the commemoration by Monday.
Transport for London Commissioner Andy Byford called it “the biggest incident and challenge TfL has faced in its history”. The government has warned that navigating the line will be a task of endurance.
“You will need to stand for several hours, possibly overnight, with very little opportunity to sit, as the queue will go on continuously,” said a set of detailed instructions for those wishing to come.
People will be able to check line lengths and wait times on the social media accounts of the Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sports. Participants will be given a numbered wristbands so that they can take a meal or toilet break without losing their place. A separate accessible line has been set up for those unable to stand for long periods.
As always in the UK, jumping in the queue is a definite no-no. Officials hope the mourners’ sense of fairness will make the line largely self-policing. Due to the uncertainty of British weather, people are advised to carry both an umbrella and sunscreen.
The government is giving other helpful hints: Bring food and drink, but definitely consume it before reaching the front. Bring a portable power pack to keep the phone charged.
When they reach Parliament, people will go through airport-like security scans. Prohibited items include large bags, liquids, spray paint, knives, fireworks, flowers, candles, stuffed toys and “advertising or marketing messages.”
People queuing on Wednesday were convinced that all the trouble would be worth it.
“Leaving my day’s queue is nothing compared to what I’ve done for 70 years,” said Gina Carver of Tunbridge Wells in the South. England Said about the late queen. “And she feels like our grandmother.”