Sunday 21 April 2013

True Blue

For some years there has been a plan - codenamed Operation True Blue - which set out in some detail the arrangements for Baroness Thatcher's funeral. As is the way of these things the plan is robust enough to make sure that it can swing into action at a moment's notice but leaves some details to be progressed at a later date.

It might seem a little morbid to be discussing these arrangements whilst the person is still alive, however there is so much to do in the 10 days or so from death to funeral that this advance planning is essential.

Therefore, minutes after 1128 on 8th April, Operation True Blue swung into action with the funeral service on the following Wednesday a little over a week later. For us that means road closures, street furniture removal, bus service diversions, and a thousand other issues all to be done jointly with all the agencies each having their own long list of things to do. In the middle of this mix are the niceties of protocol and overseas diplomacy (so for example the Argentinian President was not invited but his Ambassador to London was).

The risk of protest, disruption, and terrorism was always present and a quite separate plan to deal with those issues was also devised. Thankfully wet weather helped dampen the Saturday protests down and gave us a clue as to what we might expect on the day of the funeral.

The funeral of course is only part of the story - there are many other movements to arrange. The body itself had to leave the Ritz Hotel with the undertakers and return to the Palace of Westminster later. A full rehearsal of the funeral procession had to take place at 0300 a couple of days before the actual event.

A hierarchy of daily meetings sorts out the issues and enables information to be exchanged. Best of all, it provides an excellent forum for problems to be solved by inter-agency co-operation.

A fairly recent addition to the plan was the introduction of receptions at Mansion House and Guildhall for the significant number of important guests especially from overseas. This enlarged the closure area affecting a larger chunk of the City of London and guests from St Paul's Cathedral were faced with a walk along closed streets to those venues. Not all are able to walk so far or fast enough. Three single-decker buses were laid on for those who couldn't.

DMLs 44264, 44266 and 44267 were provided from First's Lea Interchange depot. They were chosen as the buses had to have enough seats, the facility for one wheelchair user, and be small enough to turn around in the streets involved and make return journeys. They were very well used and guests were delighted they were available. It isn't very often so many high-ranking overseas officials travel together on a London bus! 

After the funeral there were movements to the Royal Hospital Chelsea and Mortlake Crematorium before finally London returned to normal and the period of undoing all of the changes got underway.

Naturally, by Thursday morning, London was back to its old self again. It would be tempting to say that all those involved breathed a huge sigh of relief but of course over the next three days the London Marathon has to be delivered..........

The team in action and under escort!


1 comment:

  1. In the midst of all these arrangements I was surprised to see a flag at half-mast over 55 Broadway. I was fully supportive of a similar tribute to Sir Wilfrid Newton, a widely-respected former LT Chairman, but this seemed somewhat different. There is a wide range of conflicting views on Margaret Thatcher, and she arguably had a negative impact on funding and governance of transport in London. I suggest TfL should have remained neutral on such a divisive political issue; Broadway is after all not a government building.