And because of the pandemic, no further briefings took place after 2019. Nobody then realised the Royal Train had been hooked from the operation.
Phil Marsh, a railway historian who has written extensively on the Royal Train, and who is familiar with the discussions, says: “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.
“It’s a great shame it wasn’t used in the funeral,” he says, adding wryly, “but that’s life.”
Marsh believes authorities got spooked after a series of incidents, beginning in 2019, when trainspotters caused havoc on the railways when they got too close to obtain photographs of the passing Flying Scotsman. The prospect of huge crowds gathering to photograph the slow-moving Royal Train would have been hugely problematic. Counter-terror police were alarmed at the possibility, says Marsh, of anti-monarchy protesters hurling bricks from bridges as the train passed underneath.
Royal Train journeys are never made public in advance, just for those reasons. Using it to carry the Queen’s body, in the end, was a risk authorities were not willing to take.
Back in Wolverton, the train with its special carriage for carrying the coffin, remains under wraps amid tight security in a locked warehouse. It would have been the romantic solution for transporting the late Queen, an opportunity for her subjects to wave her goodbye as she passed from north to south. Instead, the powers-that-be went for safety at all costs. But the extra pressure that now places on London, as a grieving public descends on the capital, has its own inherent dangers.The next five days will tell if the decision was a wise one.