THREE lifeline vessels were sidelined for repairs and Covid as islanders raised new concerns in the wake of ferry disruption through high winds and snow.

The ferries were taken out over and above those which could not operate yesterday as the weather brought some services to a standstill just as new timetables were brought in to provide greater reliability because of Covid-related absences.

On one service Calmac issued 'only travel if necessary' guidance.

Due to a problem with the propulsion unit of one of the oldest vessels in the CalMac fleet MV Loch Bhrusda, services between the islands of Barra and Eriskay have been cancelled since Monday - and are not expected to be up and running again till tomorrow (Thursday).

Scottish Government-controlled CalMac chartered the 12-passenger Karleen Belle to take up a tiny amount of the slack to replace the 26-year-old Loch Bhrusda, which can carry 18 cars and 150 passengers.

But yesterday (Tuesday) that service had to stop as high winds and snow hit travel across Scotland yesterday.

And Scottish Government-controlled ferry operator CalMac said that while it was looking to redeploy MV Loch Alainn to pick up lifeline service on the route, the impact of crew availability due to Covid, combined with forecast adverse weather meant it might not be in place until Friday.

CalMac has issued an apology for this disruption and said that it "recognises cancelling a service can be very challenging for our customers and the communities we serve".

Services to and from Uig on Skye have been suspended since just after mid-day on Monday after the 21-year-old MV Hebrides was hit with a propellor issue.


Divers were called in to remove what CalMac described as "foreign objects" from the vessel's propellors yesterday and services were to resume at 2pm.

And services to and from Islay have been disrupted since Monday and an amended timetable put in place after 11-year-old MV Finlaggan was withdrawn for deep cleaning after a number of crew members returned positive Covid tests and to allow replacement crew to be sourced.

The two vessel service has now been cut to one, with another of CalMac's oldest vessels, the 38-year-old MV Isle of Arran attempting to take up the slack. The ferry operator, however, warned that priority will be given to those hit by Monday cancellations and any vehicles involved in the carriage of essential goods.

But CalMac said there was no guarantee that all essential goods vehicles would be able to be accommodated.

The ferry operator has warned that there is the potential for the vessel to remain off service for several days and customers were asked to "consider their journey and only travel if essential" as shipment of essential supplies to and from Islay "will be prioritised".

A raft of other ferry services have been hit by weather-related issues just as new timetables are brought in to provide greater reliablity because of Covid-related absences.

Starting from yesterday, CalMac have been running a reduced timetable as it is unable to maintain usual service with the number of staff who are having to self-isolate.

The “essential services” ferry timetable which will run until least January 23 will see the route between Mallaig, Invernesshire and Lochboisdale on South Uist suspended.

Cuts to nine of CalMac’s 26 routes include introducing a single vessel rather than the usual double ferry timetable for one of Scotland's busiest routes - to and from Brodick on Arran.

Changes across the ferry network were announced on Hogmanay after CalMac said that as of December 31, 93 crew and 18 port staff were unavailable because of Covid.

And Arran services were brought to a standstill yesterday (Tuesday) with the first sailing not expected until 8.20am on Wednesday.

A potential alternative shuttle services route from Tarbert to Lochranza on Arran was in operation.

By road, that would mean those travelling from Ardrossan going on a 120 mile detour to get to and from Tarbert - a journey that would take around three hours. The Ardrossan to Brodick ferry crossing usually takes just 35 minutes.

North westerly winds gusting up to 46mph were blamed as all sailings, including a freight service was cancelled on another of Scotland's busiest crossing to Stornoway, the capital of Lewis and Harris. A further 7am sailing is already cancelled for today (Wednesday).

Sam Bourne, chairman of the Arran Ferry Action Group said: "The network is literally hanging by a thread up and down the west coast. The timetable is basically in the bin, it’s simply a sailing by sailing basis now.

"It is going to be a long few weeks on the islands."

A Met Office yellow warning for snow and ice remains in place for most of Scotland north of Perth till 9am on Thursday.


The weather forecaster said that frequent snow showers and icy stretches are expected, leading to some travel disruption, particularly for higher routes.

It warned of difficult driving conditions at times on higher routes and some injuries from slips and falls on icy surfaces.

There were further warnings of some icy patches on some untreated roads, pavements and cycle paths.

And there was also warnings that roads and railways are likely to be affected with longer journey times by road, bus and train services.

Other ferry services hit included two Wednesday morning sailings between Mallaig and Armadale on the Isle of Skye were cancelled and CalMac after adverse weather was blamed for the cancellation of two sailings later yesterday (Tuesday) Strong winds of up to 45mph were blamed for cancellations to four services to and from Tobermory on Mull on Tuesday morning.

Weather was also blamed for changes to the timetable for services to and from the Small Isles - Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna - on Tuesday mornings And sailings were cancelled for the day to and from Berneray, South Uist and Gigha.

ScotRail services were also hit.

Due to a speed restriction because of snow and ice services to and from Inverness from Glasgow and Edinburgh were to delayed or revised in a move expected till 2pm on Tuesday.

The train operators said it received reports of signal faults at three different locations between Carrbridge and Inverness due to heavy snow.

There were also a series of cancellations to services between Edinburgh and North Berwick after a member of on-train staff took ill.

Dornoch Bridge was closed to high sided vehicles due to the high winds and a 40mph speed limit was implemented on the Forth Road Bridge and the A1 Tyne Bridge.

A temporary ScotRail timetable was introduced from January 4 to January 28 “to give customers some certainty about which services are running” as scientists warn the peak of Omicron infections is still several weeks away.

ScotRail was withdrawing or amending services from 12 different routes throughout the country from Tuesday.

The rail operator has said that the alterations are mainly in the Central Belt of Scotland, but passengers from all areas of the country are being asked to check the status of their journey before heading to their local station.