THOUSANDS of police officers will flood the capital’s streets this morning as Westminster and the City of London come to a standstill for the funeral of Baroness Thatcher.
Local businesses have been told to step up security and a ring of steel barriers has been erected around St Paul’s cathedral ahead of the service, which will begin at 11am.
Many major roads and bridges will be closed from 7.30am until mid-afternoon, affecting commuters and causing many bus routes to be diverted. Motorists have been advised to avoid central London all day.
The former Prime Minister’s coffin spent last night in the Houses of Parliament and will leave Westminster for The Strand in a hearse at 10am. Police marksmen will be located on rooftops, while special forces are expected to be stationed nearby.
Thousands of well-wishers are expected to line the route of the procession, while the police say a handful of people have been in touch to say they intend to stage protests against the former Prime Minister tomorrow.
“We wish to deliver our operation in a way that protects and secures, but does not intrude upon those people who wish to pay their respects,” said commander Christine Jones of the Metropolitan Police.
At 10.30am the coffin will begin its progress on a horse-drawn gun carriage to the cathedral, while guns will be fire from the Tower of London.
Afterwards the City will host receptions for guests at both the Mansion House at the Guidhall.
Yesterday Downing Street confirmed more guests who will be present, including former US politicians Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger, BBC bosses Lord Patten and Lord Hall, as well as Olympics organiser Lord Coe.
However, it emerged that Argentina’s ambassador to the UK has decided to turn down her invitation.
What you need to know about today’s service
Where should you stand to watch the procession?
The public will be able to stand along the entire route, with police officers on hand to direct people to less crowded areas.
When will the funeral guests start arriving in the City?
Thousands of VIPs will arrive at St Paul’s from 9am onwards.
Which of the capital’s roads will be closed today?
The core of the route down Whitehall, through Trafalgar Square and along The Strand and Fleet Street to St Paul’s will be shut. Cannon Street and Cheapside will also be closed, while there will be limited access to Westminster and Blackfriars bridges.
Which bus routes will be affected? What about the Underground?
Bus routes on diversion include the 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 43, 45, 53, 59, 63, 68, 76, 87, 88, 91, 100, 133, 139, 141, 148, 159, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 211, 242, 243, 341, 381, 388, 453, 507, 521, and C10. The tube will be unaffected, although some Cycle Hire stands will be unavailable.
When will the traffic restrictions be lifted?
The roads to the west of Aldwych should be open to traffic by midday. Roads to the east, including the City, should be reopened by 3pm.