The coffin, accompanied by the Princess Royal and her husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, landed at RAF Northolt just before 7pm on Tuesday. They were met on the airfield by a group including Prime Minister Liz Truss and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
The Queen’s farewell journey by Royal Train was rerouted due to the “health and security” worries of Britain’s railway system, a news report has revealed.
According to the news reports, initially there were plans for the public to bid farewell to the longest-reigning monarch as her coffin passed by train along 400 miles of track between Edinburgh Waverley station and St Pancras, in central London.
The Telegraph reported that a risk-averse culture, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, prompted a u-turn for the farewell journey.
The report claimed: “Largely on grounds of health and safety and security worries, and over fears Britain’s hapless rail network would struggle to cope, the Royal Train’s role in the funeral was quietly shelved two years ago.
“The idea to involve the Royal Train had been long in the planning.”
According to the news report, a train carriage to carry a royal coffin was specially modified in the mid-1980s, with a reinforced floor installed to take the weight of the casket and a large table – known as a catafalque – on which it was to rest.
Rail industry sources insisted yesterday that the royal household had requested Network Rail, working with the Department for Transport, draw up plans for incorporating the train into Operation London Bridge.
A special unit was convened to examine options, address safety fears and overcome logistical challenges.
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A source told The Telegraph: “The police were always a bit jittery.”
Phil Marsh, a railway historian who has written extensively on the Royal Train, and who is familiar with the discussions told the publication: “The Royal Train was taken out of London Bridge on health and safety grounds.
“Health and safety trumps everything. In practical terms, they realised they couldn’t police 400 miles of track from Edinburgh to London.”
Back in 1997, after the sell-off of the Royal Yacht Britannia, Marsh was tasked with finding a buyer for the Royal Train. He produced a report, he explains, which concluded that a sale would not be cost effective. The train was reprieved.
He added: “It’s a great shame it wasn’t used in the funeral, but that’s life.”
At Edinburgh Airport a guard of honour was provided by three officers and 101 soldiers from The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was among dignitaries present as the coffin was carried on to the plane.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Scotland has bid a final and poignant farewell to our much loved Elizabeth, Queen of Scots.”