London hit by coronation road closures and protests

Traffic disruption and airport worker strikes could bring city to a halt

Mounted police officers patrol ahead of the coronation of King Charles III, with parts of London cordoned off. Reuters
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Road closures which threaten to cause transport chaos across London began this week as preparation and rehearsals for the coronation started.

It comes as hundreds of thousands of people are expected to descend on the city for the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday.

Daily disruption has been caused to motorists from environmental activists Just Stop Oil holding demonstrations.

On Wednesday 16 people were arrested after they brought traffic to a standstill at Parliament Square and in Waterloo.

Despite the police action, three separate protests again took place on Friday in Camden, Kensington and Putney.

The Just Stop Oil protest group has warned it will be holding numerous demonstrations in the run up to the coronation which are expected to add to the travel disruption.

"We understand the considerable concern disruptive protests cause and will work to intervene and minimise disruption to Londoners quickly," the Metropolitan Police said.

Roads around the coronation route began to be closed overnight on Tuesday to allow the military to practice. They will be closed again from 7pm on Friday until no later than 9pm on Saturday.

More than 3,000 roads will be closed at the weekend across England for street parties and in the centre of London large parts of Victoria, Mayfair, Whitehall and St James's Park surrounding the 2km coronation route.

Passengers at Heathrow Airport could also experience delays after three days of strike action by security guards began on Thursday.

Andy Lord, London’s transport commissioner, is urging people to use public transport to get around the city where possible at the weekend.

“Public transport remains the best way to travel in London during the coronation weekend and is at the heart of making this historic occasion a success, just like it did when London saw the 1953 coronation of [Queen] Elizabeth II,” he said.

“With no planned engineering closures, I hope people make the most of the public transport options to enjoy the bank holiday.”

In the centre of London barriers will be in place and road closures on the procession route which will see the king taken from Buckingham Palace, along The Mall, through Admiralty Arch, south of King Charles I Island and Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall, Parliament Street, to the east and south side of Parliament Square and into Broad Sanctuary before arriving at the Westminster Abbey.

“There will be large crowds in London on May 6. You should plan ahead and allow plenty of time to get to and from your destination,” the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said.

“Anyone wishing to travel to central London is strongly advised to use public transport, avoiding travelling by road, and should consider that they may need to take alternative routes. Roads and public transport services within the event footprint will be very busy.

“Some stations may be subject to temporary closures at short notice, for safety reasons.

“Some bus routes will also be on diversion, due to road closures and roads and public transport services located within the immediate vicinity of the event footprint are also expected to be very busy.

“Also, St James’s Park Underground Station will be closed on May 6.”

More than 3,000 roads will be closed

Councils in England have approved 3,087 road closures for gatherings marking the royal event, according to figures from road management company

The parties will cover more than 420km of road.

Transport company the RAC estimates that 14.6 million leisure trips will be made by car in the UK over the coronation weekend — less than previous bank holidays due to millions of people staying at home to watch the events on television.

“The weather might still be unseasonably chilly but this won’t stop drivers getting out and about over the holiday weekend to make the most of some extra days off,” RAC Breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis said.

“While we’d expect more short breaks and day trips to the coast this coming weekend, when it comes to the coronation it’s likely major routes are less likely to be congested.

“The big variable, as always, is what happens with the Great British weather.

“If temperatures finally increase and the sun makes more of an appearance, we could well see many more people jumping in the car for a quick trip.”

National Highways announced it will lift more than 1,100km of roadworks on England’s motorways and major roads ahead of the coronation weekend.

These include routes expected to be used by thousands of people driving to London for the occasion.

Roadworks to be lifted include a 17km stretch on the M1 around Hemel Hempstead and Dunstable, and 20km on the M11 around Cambridge and Harlow.

“We know that people will want to head to London to witness this historic moment and that’s why we have lifted as many roadworks as possible where it is safe to do so across our network,” National Highways customer services director Andrew Butterfield said.

“Given the size and complexity of some projects, it’s not practical to remove them for a couple of days.

“However, the good news for motorists is that 96 per cent of our network will be roadworks-free over the coronation bank holiday weekend.”

Three days of strike action to take place at Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport says it has robust contingency plans in place during the strike days when 1,400 security guards are taking industrial action.

“Passengers can expect to travel as normal during the coronation and half-term peaks, regardless of further unnecessary strike action by Unite,” it said.

Rail company GWR is warning people to leave plenty of time for their journeys.

“An event not seen since 1953, it is expected that hundreds of thousands of people will travel to London for the coronation ceremony on Saturday,” it said.

“We expect train services into London to be extremely busy ahead of the ceremony and away from London after the ceremony. If you are planning on travelling, reserve a seat if possible and leave plenty of time to make your journey.

“Our station team at Paddington will be on hand to direct people to public transport into central London.”

Network Rail is putting on extra staff at stations at the weekend to help direct passengers attending the coronation.

“The railway is open for passengers during the coronation,” it said.

“The vast majority of Britain’s railway will be open as usual during the coronation. There are no railway line closures into any of the major London stations.”

Updated: May 06, 2023, 8:52 AM