RETRO: 1997: IRA brings terror to Doncaster with rail station bomb

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Nineteen years ago this week, Doncaster was brought to a terrifying standstill by Irish republican terror group the IRA.

Doncaster, along with much of the rest of Northern England and the Midlands, was paralysed after two explosions and a series of coded warnings caused travel chaos and disruption across the country on April 18, 1997.

The IRA targeted key rail and motorway links - including Doncaster Railway Station - in effect cutting off the North from the South for several hours.

Two devices exploded at Doncaster and Leeds, but no one was injured. The railway stations and city centres of Stoke-on-Trent and Crewe were also evacuated and two long stretches of the M6 were closed for five hours.

The attacks followed the a pattern of incidents carried out by the IRA at that time to cause maximum disruption and maximum publicity with minimum threat to life.

The early morning warnings came just after 7am - and for the rest of the day, Doncaster town centre was on shutdown as police and bomb squads moved in.

Roads were closed off, shops and pubs near the railway station closed and huge cordons put around the railway station as panic spread and the public were led to safety.

The “bomb” in Doncaster went off at 10.10am near North Bridge - although it was later understood the explosion had been caused by a pigeon flying into overhead power lines.

The second explosion was at a relay cabinet containing signalling equipment near Leeds station car park just before 9am. No one was hurt, but the city centre was closed for about six hours.

Bomb squad officers carried out a controlled explosion at the station in Stoke-on-Trent to gain access to a main foyer area after a coded warning was given just after 7am.

In Crewe, a telephone warning led to the closure of the station until late afternoon.

On the M6, two sections, in Staffordshire and north of Manchester, were closed in both directions after coded warnings. Then at 8.15pm, Warwickshire police closed part of the M42 after a major security alert at the exit leading to the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre and airport.