LONDON: London expects vast crowds for the lying in state and funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, resulting in few available hotel rooms, while transport bosses warn of strong demand.
The late monarch's coffin can be viewed by members of the public from Wednesday in Westminster Hall, while her funeral will take place in nearby Westminster Abbey on Monday.
Huge gatherings are expected also around Windsor Castle, west of the capital, where the queen will be buried.
Monday will be a public holiday across the United Kingdom, a government decision approved by King Charles III following the death of his mother last week, aged 96.
- 'Visitors from across globe' -
“Our hotels in central London and Windsor are literally sold out, and demand is... strong for our hotels situated near to a train or tube station throughout Greater London,“ according to budget hotel chain Travelodge.
Visitors are coming “from all corners of the UK and across the globe” to pay respects to Britain’s longest-serving monarch, it added in a statement.
Available rooms are set to remain scarce ahead of the funeral, said industry body UK Hospitality.
“We’re hearing from hotel operators in London that they’ve experienced a surge in bookings since last Thursday’s announcement of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,“ said UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.
“Demand is certain to remain high right up until next Monday’s state funeral.”
Accommodation is also under strain owing to block bookings for extra police and other key personnel for before, during and after the high-profile event.
- Prices rocket -
Hotel prices have rocketed in line with the strong demand.
A basic windowless basement room in Piccadilly Circus, central London, was available for £300 ($350) per night.
And another similar room was £315 per night near Paddington railway station.
The Snoozebox hotel in Stratford, east London, offering no-frills windowless rooms made out of shipping containers, has no availability until after the funeral.
Rooms have also been in short supply this week in Edinburgh, where mourners have thronged to view the queen's coffin before its journey to London.
- 'Extremely busy' -
“We do expect it to be extremely busy” in the next few days, said a spokesman for new British Prime Minster Liz Truss.
An estimated 200,000 visitors filed past the coffin of king George VI's widow queen Elizabeth in Westminster Hall in 2002.
“We expect to be far more than that,“ the spokesman added.
Some Londoners “may wish to change their working patterns accordingly” and work from home, he added.
The city's transport authority says services will face very strong demand in the Westminster area.
Network Rail, which manages Britain’s railways, warns trains will be “exceptionally busy” particularly from Wednesday.
Passengers “may wish to consider walking to their final destinations within the capital”, it added, noting road closures will be in place.-AFP