TWO grieving sisters have described their heartache after missing their father’s funeral due to a bomb scare.
Twins Imogen and Naomi Hollander, 28, were left distraught when what should have been a straightforward journey from Blackpool to Stafford - where their father’s cremation was being held - turned into chaos.
Trains were halted as the drama unfolded at Poulton Industrial Estate on Friday after a suspicious looking device was uncovered by a workman in the boot of a Mercedes he was repairing.
In a desperate bid to catch their train, the twins jumped in a taxi to Preston but say they were charged way over the odds for the journey.
In the end, stranded at Preston rail station, they had to accept they would not make it to the funeral in time and turned back.
Imogen, of Crummock Place, Mereside, told The Gazette: “It was an awful, terrible day and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. As if the death of my dad wasn’t enough, to have to go through what we did was dreadful, really distressing.”
The nightmare day began when Miss Hollander and her sister discovered their pre-booked 12.44pm train from Blackpool North to Stafford, via Preston, had been cancelled because of the bomb scare, which saw the industrial estate cordoned off for around two hours while bomb disposal teams drafted in.
Miss Hollander added: “We asked at customer services what we should do. It took a long time to get things sorted while we were getting more frantic, but we were eventually told a cab would take us to Preston for £6 per passenger. But, with us in the backseat, the driver stuck his head out of the window and shouted to a colleague ‘tell the station they can shove the six quid rule’.”
They were charged £45 for the journey and by the time they eventually arrived at Preston had missed their connecting train, which had departed at 1.08pm. Then came the heartbreak of discovering the next available train - the 2.15pm to Crewe - was delayed by 40 minutes, which meant it would be impossible to get to Stafford until after their father’s funeral had finished.
Miss Hollander added: “At this point we were devastated. My sister and I were both in tears, she had a panic attack, it was awful.”
The sisters were only reunited with their father - 61-year-old David Rogers - six years ago. He had separated from his wife shortly after the twins were born.
Imogen added: “We’d only just got to know him. I had been to stay with him in the summer with my 19-month-old Sebastian and it had been lovely, it felt like having a proper family holiday. He’d had a couple of strokes and died because of a heart attack. To not get to his funeral is heartbreaking. No one really helped us on the day and we feel someone, somewhere should apologise.”
After The Gazette contacted Northern Rail - the company responsible for running Blackpool North station - a statement saying sorry was issued to the Hollander family.
Spokesman Joselyn Rankin said: “The disruption at Blackpool North station last Friday was caused by an exceptional incident at Poulton and we would like to apologise to all customers who experienced delays and missed services as a result, particularly the Hollander family.
“The station team at Blackpool worked hard to keep customers on the move and reach connecting trains in Preston, by arranging an agreement with local taxis which use the rank in front of the station.”
Bill Lewtas, secretary of Blackpool Licensed Taxi Operators Association (BLTOA), has personally investigated Miss Hollander’s claims and offered compensation.
He said: “I am sorry some passengers were charged more than the agreed fare for a journey to Preston Station. On the day in question we had an agreement that the six seater taxis would take passengers there for a total of £36 or £6 per person.
“If the person concerned contacts BLTOA we would like to offer recompense. Also we would like to be able to identify the driver concerned.”
Police were called to Aldon Coachworks at Aldon Way on Poulton Industrial Estate just before 11am on Friday. Residents near the estate were advised to evacuate their homes and Garstang Road East was closed between Moorland Road and Bracewell Avenue. It took experts almost two hours to confirm the package was merely a prop built for a fancy dress party. Police were then able to lift the cordon and sound the all clear.
Miss Hollander and her sister plan to hold a private ceremony in memory of their father at Mereside Methodist Church.