A new row has blown up over further curbs to services due to high winds, as at least 11 lifeline CalMac ferry services suffered suspensions yesterday (Wednesday) morning. 

Arran ferry users have questioned why the Gourock 'port of refuge' was not used as their services were suspended, despite £2.5m being spent on it to cut cancellations in bad weather.

Winds of up to 50mph were reported in some parts while the Met Office issued weather warnings covering most of Scotland over snow and ice running till noon today (Friday).

CalMac warned of "weather disruption across the network" three days after it introduced sailing cuts on nine routes with services between Mallaig, Invernesshire and Lochboisdale on South Uist suspended until at least January 23. The move came after a surge in the number of staff self-isolating because of Covid.

Meanwhile the Met Office issue yellow warnings over snow and ice from 8pm on Thursday to 11am tomorrow, saying it could lead to road and railways disruption, and longer journey times by road, bus and train.

The weather forecasters said that brief power outages were possible with a risk of isolated lighting strikes.

There is already a yellow warning about snow on force till 4pm, with warnings of a hit on roads, buses and railways.

The main Arran service to and from Brodick, one of the busiest in Scotland, which has already suffered major curbs over the weekend, was again hit with a raft of sailings cancelled as services were suspended yesterday with CalMac reporting winds of 50mph.

One early morning sailing was already cancelled from Ardrossan to the island for today (Friday).

READ MORE: Arran CalMac ferry fiasco sparks food and fuel shortage fears as lorries stuck for two days

The ferry operator said: "We recognise that cancelling a service can be very challenging for our customers and the communities we serve and apologise for the disruption this will cause."

A vital alternative route to Arran to the north of the island which has been used as a diversion after continuing issues with the main service to the main village of Brodick was itself suspended yesterday morning due to "adverse weather" with services resuming in the afternoon.


But the Arran Ferry Action Group, which is concerned about continual disruptions since the weekend, said it does not understand why the boat cannot be diverted to the 'port of refuge' in Gourock.

Sailings to and from Rothesay on the Isle of Bute from Wemyss Bay which were also suspended yesterday morning were according to CalMac data, diverted to Gourock after a review of weather conditions.

During winter storms, ferries from Bute sometimes divert to Gourock as it is less exposed than the usual terminal at Wemyss Bay.

The Gourock ferry terminal underwent a £2.5m makeover to cut cancellations on the Bute and Arran ferries due to bad weather.

The project involved repairs to the linkspan support structures and replacement of the steel deck.

The linkspan is a type of drawbridge that allows for changes in water levels.

At the time it was said that once restored,  the linkspan will be able to carry vehicles and reinstate Gourock as an alternative port in bad weather for Bute and Arran ferries.

Action group chairman Sam Bourne said: "Questions are being raised about why the boat will not divert to Gourock. The Bute boat is currently running to Gourock. I really can’t understand why our boat is not doing the same."

Five food lorries, stranded for up to two days managed to leave Arran on Wednesday as other visitors spoke of being unable to leave after services on the island came to a standstill over the weekend.

Services to Arran had been among those hit as ten routes suffered restrictions sparking a "connectivity crisis" after a surge in the number of CalMac self-isolating because of Covid.

The new wave of ferry suspensions that was weather-related also included another of Scotland's busiest crossings between Largs and Cumbrae which was stopped "due to the increasing high winds" but some services became available in the afternoon.

The ferry to and from the community-owned island of Gigha was suspended two days ago due to issues with weather and sea conditions. It remained suspended on Thursday "due to no improvement in the weather" although some sailings too place in the afternoon.

The service linking Sconser on Skye and the isle of Raasay was also halted due to winds gusting up to 50mph.

The link between Fionnphort on Mull and the historic island of Iona was suspended for the day "due to continuing adverse weather of strong southerly winds".

The service to the small island of Canna was also cancelled.

In the afternoon there were further service suspensions between Kilchoan and Mull, Oban to Coll and Tiree and Mallaig to Armadale on Skye.

A passenger charter service linking Barra and Eriskay, brought in after repairs were needed to one of the oldest vessels of the CalMac fleet MV Loch Bhrusda, was itself out of action for much of yesterday.

The Scottish Government-controlled ferry operator had chartered the 12-passenger Karleen Belle earlier this week 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 that ferry has also suffered disruption since Tuesday when it had to stop as high winds and snow hit travel across Scotland and it is now heading for its annual overhaul.

Another of Scotland's busiest crossings to Stornoway, the capital of Lewis and Harris, was also suffering disruption with the vital 3am freight sailing from Ullapool delayed for nine hours. And as a knock-one effect, the 10.30pm sailing from Stornoway was also expected to be delayed.

Passenger services were also hit, with the a number of sailings cancelled or delayed.

CalMac said that the 7.30am service linking Uig on Skye and Lochmaddy on North Uist was also cancelled with delayed services resuming in the afternoon.

A Calmac spokesman said: “It is entirely incorrect to compare the ability to berth at a particular port by two entirely different vessels. The Arran vessel is 23m longer than the Bute vessel, and therefore overhangs the pier at Gourock by a considerable margin.

"This makes mooring operations extremely challenging in poor weather and explains why the Arran vessel could not use Gourock under the prevailing weather conditions. Ultimately it is the Master’s decision whether to sail or not, and they took the completely understandable decision not to sail to Gourock on the grounds of safety.

“The £2.5m investment by CMAL in Gourock was to replace the linkspan, it did not change the length of the pier and was not an upgrade on the port itself. Work on the port will be carried out as part of the wider Gourock redevelopment project which CMAL are leading on, supported by CalMac and Inverclyde Council.”

The upgrade to Gourock emerged after a combination of technical failures caused major disruption to the Arran ferry service in October, 2019.

The MV Caledonian Isles, which serves the Brodick route was diverted to Troon, 10 miles south of the intended destination due to problems with linkspans at Ardrossan stopping cars being able to board.

Bad weather then made it impossible for the ferry to berth at Troon. To complicate matters, the Gourock terminal's broken linkspan stopped vehicles using the ferry.

Passenger-only services saw cars and travellers stranded in the wrong locations.