Scottish Government resilience arrangements have been activated to ensure Scotland is as prepared as possible for the severe weather expected across the rest of this week.
The Deputy First Minister and Transport Minister have chaired a meeting with all partners and Ministers will continue to receive regular updates on preparations.
The Met Office has weather warnings in place for the remainder of the week and through the weekend with strong winds, blustery showers and lightning expected to varying degrees across the country. The worst of the conditions is expected over the North West and the Isles where an Amber (Be Prepared) warning is in place from lunchtime on Friday through to early Saturday morning.
Further details are available at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/warnings
Disruption to the transport system is expected as a result. Ferry services to the Western and Northern Isles are already seeing delays and cancelations. Flights to the islands are also likely to be disrupted, with winds potentially reaching gusts of 90 mph. There is also the potential for changes to rail services north and west of Inverness, and on the West Highland Line on Friday.
Passengers are being urged to check with their travel operator for the latest information to understand how their travel plans may be impacted.
There will be difficult driving conditions, especially on higher routes. There may be restrictions and possibly closures on road bridges such as the Skye, Kessock and Dornoch, especially for high sided vehicles.
A Multi-Agency Response Team (MART), involving partner organisations, such as Police Scotland and our operating companies is being activated at the Traffic Scotland National Control Centre to monitor conditions and make sure that the public has the latest information. A new webpage is live on the Traffic Scotland website with links to the latest information on road, air and ferries.
Responder authorities and essential services such as telecoms, electricity, water and gas in the areas affected are activating their plans to deal with the potential impacts and extra staffing and on call arrangements are in place over the festive period.
Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf said: “The weather fronts, including Storm Barbara will bring particularly strong winds across much of the country over the next few days when people are traveling home for the festive season. The North West and the Isles will be particularly affected and the Met Office is warning of gusts of up to 90 mph at the height of the storm with wintry showers, heavy rain and lightning also expected.
“The Scottish Government’s Resilience operation is actively monitoring developments with updates from the Met Office, SEPA and the utilities companies, as well the emergency responders in the areas likely to be affected by adverse weather.
“The transport authorities are doing all they can to help people get to where they need to be but safety has to be the first priority. Passengers should expect cancellations and disruption to ferry services and the operators websites will have all of the latest information.
“Those planning to fly should check ahead and rail passengers will get the latest information on the Scotrail website or social media.
“On the roads, bridges could be affected by high winds, and driving conditions could be challenging, particularly for high-sided vehicles. Motorists should allow extra time for their journeys and check the Traffic Scotland website before they set-out.
“The safety of commuters, passengers and transport staff is our primary consideration.
“The Scottish Government’s annual campaign, Ready for Winter, is a good reminder of the simple actions we can all take to prepare for adverse conditions. Information is available at Readyscotland.org”
A spokesperson from NorthLink Ferries said: “With Storm Barbara due to arrive from Friday 23 December we are sorry to say that we anticipate disruption and cancellation on our scheduled services between mainland Scotland and the Northern Isles over the coming week.
“We advise that passengers review their current booking arrangements and consider alternative travel for services due to sail on Friday 23 and Saturday 24 December.
“We will continue to provide updates on the weather conditions as they become available and inform passengers accordingly. For more information and sailing amendments, passengers should call 0845 6000449 or visit at www.northlinkferries.co.uk”
Operations Director at Caledonian MacBrayne, Drew Collier said: “Customers are strongly advised to pay close and regular attention to weather forecasts, as well as regularly checking online at www.calmac.co.uk/service-status, on the CalMac app and on our social media feeds – all of these are updated on a continuous basis and will always offer our best and most up-to-date service information.”
Managing Director of the ScotRail Alliance Phil Verster, said: “The safety of our passengers and workforce is our top priority and we will continue to closely monitor weather conditions to track how this storm may affect our services, particularly on rail routes north and west of Inverness, and on the West Highland Line.
“We have specialist teams ready to deploy quickly to deal with any issues caused by the storm and our customers can continue to get the most up to date information over the coming days by checking our website, following us on social media or downloading the ScotRail app.”
Loganair’s Managing Director Jonathan Hinkles said: “Several hundred passengers have taken up our travel advice published earlier this week and have moved flights to earlier dates. Extra flights and extra seats have been added across many routes in our network for Wednesday and Thursday to help meet the demand for earlier travel.
“We’ve now pro-actively changed our schedule for Friday to work around the weather, which includes a significant number of flights being moved earlier in the day due to the forecast conditions. We would urge all customers to check the travel advice before setting off for the airport.”