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23/12/2016

Caledonian MacBrayne ferry info as Storm Barbara makes her formidable presence felt

With the well-forecast arrival of Storm Barbara, Caledonian MacBrayne ferries are experiencing widespread disruption across the 200-mile network today (Friday December 23).

MV Argyle arrives at Wemyss Bay during Storm Barbara

Winds gusting up to 90 miles per hour are expected across the Western Isles, and strong gale force conditions will be experienced elsewhere.

Many travellers heeded advice to explore festive journey options in light of the predicted conditions and did travel yesterday (Thursday December 22) instead. A total of 98.3 per cent of sailings ran on the Clyde, 100 per cent in both the Southern and Inner Hebrides, 69 per cent for the Small Isles, Skye and Raasay area and 83 per cent for the Outer Hebrides.

CalMac managed to run a very difficult lifeline crossing to Barra yesterday, complete with the island's turkeys, making the journey in seven hours instead of the usual five and a half, by routing north of the Small Isles rather than the usual direct sail across the exposed southern area of the Little Minch - where eight metre waves swells were forecast.

A little further north, an emergency shipment of generators from SSE were safely delivered to Lochmaddy in North Uist, in anticipation of any power outages which may be experienced in the wake of the storm.

And further south, an Arran hotel was very thankful for a delivery of furniture required for Christmas guests, which had to be rescheduled from Friday's sailings in light of forecasts.

More than half of the company's network has seen services cancelled for the duration of today, others are suspended and under constant review for any weather windows - but passengers are warned that conditions are likely to worsen throughout the day.

CalMac continues to advise travellers to keep a regular and close eye on forecasts and to frequently check out service information online, on social media and on its app, as difficult weather is predicted to continue throughout the weekend. Forecasts are showing little let-up in conditions until Tuesday (December 27) - indeed, the Met Office has now named Storm Conor, which is likely to arrive Christmas Day into Boxing Day.

"All services in the northern area of the network today have now been cancelled," said Drew Collier, CalMac's operations director. "Although conditions are a little less extreme in the south of our area, it's all relative and we are still likely to experience disruptive severe gales with storm force gusts - major disruption to service will be experienced.

"Customers, however, have heeded our advice over the last few days and there has been understanding that the conditions are outwith our control. We are very grateful for the amount of patience and, indeed, good humour which has been forthcoming. We are also in constant touch with our communities and assured that, at the moment, all had planned ahead and have sufficient supplies.

"There is little sign of let-up over the next few days, however, so the disruption is highly likely to continue right across the weekend and Boxing Day - although each and every sailing will be kept under constant review and we will assess weather windows as and when they present themselves.

"I cannot stress strongly enough the need for customers to continue to pay close attention to weather forecasts over the festive weekend and to keep a frequent eye on our service updates - these are constantly updated and reflect the most accurate picture of services."

Picture shows MV Argyle arriving from the Isle of Bute at Wemyss Bay this afternoon, taking advantage of a weather window

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