LONDON (Reuters) – Prince William and his wife Kate visited Scotland and northern England on Monday at the start of a whirlwind train tour of Britain to meet and thank frontline workers, care home staff and teachers for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
William, Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and second-in-line to the throne, and Kate are travelling 1,250 miles across England, Scotland and Wales on board the Royal Train on their three-day trip.
They kicked off the tour at London’s Euston Station on Sunday evening where they were serenaded by Welsh pop star Shakin’ Stevens singing his 1980s hit “Merry Christmas Everyone” before leaving for Scotland.
“Thank you to all transport workers everywhere for keeping the country moving throughout this difficult year,” they wrote on a train information board before they set off for Edinburgh.
There they met paramedics, before heading south to visit a school and then travelling on to Batley, in northern England, to call in on community volunteers.
Among those they met was Len Gardner, 85, who Kate has been speaking to by phone as part of a volunteer scheme to check in those who might be lonely during the coronavirus pandemic.
Britain has been the European country hardest hit by COVID-19, with more than 60,000 deaths.
“The Duke and Duchess are very much looking forward to shining a spotlight on the incredible work that has been done across the country throughout this difficult year,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.
Queen Victoria was the first reigning monarch to use the Royal Train in 1842, to travel from Slough to London’s Paddington station, although critics have questioned its purpose in recent years, saying it is expensive and little used.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Estelle Shirbon)