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Transport / Transport getting back to normal after significant weather disruption

With transport severely affected on mainland Scotland too, many islanders on trips away found themselves stranded for days before getting back to Shetland

Photo: Jim Mullay

THE NORTHLINK ferry arrival in Lerwick on Sunday afternoon in calm seas was a welcome sight – given that there had been no services for a few days due to the windy weather.

Flights to and from Shetland had also been disrupted by high winds, often cutting off Shetland’s connectivity completely.

Another factor in the mix were cancellations on train and bus services from the Central Belt to Aberdeen, with Scotland’s east coast and its roads severely affected by the worst of Storm Babet.

Whilst weather travel disruption is a fact of island life, having both links to and from Shetland and transport within mainland Scotland affected at the same time is relatively rare.

With Storm Babet and its rare red weather warning coming during the October holidays, some islanders were marooned on the mainland for days as they tried to get home from a trip away.

Claire Tulloch and her three children had been on a family holiday in Alicante and were due to fly back to Aberdeen on Thursday last week for onward travel to Shetland the next day, but the Ryanair flight had to divert to Edinburgh at the last minute as a result of the weather.

She said passengers were kept on board the plane after landing for one and a half hours due to ground staff issues, which was especially difficult as they had five children in their group.

Tulloch said it was “chaos” at Edinburgh Airport, with no staff there to greet them and passengers “walking around completely lost”.

They were eventually told by Ryanair that taxis would collect them the next morning to take them to Aberdeen. They had been due to get the boat on Friday but as it was cancelled, Loganair flights were booked north.

However, she said these taxis ultimately never came – and with travel disrupted in Scotland, as well as the flight being cancelled, the Tullochs were left stuck in Edinburgh and had to pay for a longer stay in the hotel out of their own pocket.

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They were told by Ryanair to make their own way to Aberdeen but were advised that travelling there on private transport could not be refunded.

Feeling “abandoned” by Ryanair and with no contact from the airline, they decided to get a hire car and drive to Aberdeen on Sunday ahead of a flight to Shetland today (Tuesday), but due to the weather disruption on the roads it took nearly six hours.

Tulloch, from Clousta, said: “The journey took us five and a half hours through the backroads, some of which were not great at all, including spending over an hour stuck in a traffic jam – this again was very difficult with peerie bairns.”

Alex Armitage and his son Ayanda as they headed north through Scotland.

Someone else who faced disruption was local councillor Alex Armitage, who was trying to get from Edinburgh to Aberdeen on Sunday with his son for the boat to Shetland that night.

They managed to get a bus to Perth, but with services to Aberdeen off, he was faced with either getting a bus to Inverness – or use the tandem bicycle he had in the hold for what would be a seven and a half hour ride.

With a sense of adventure, Armitage and his son plumped for the latter – and they got on the saddle for the lengthy 100km cycle.

They did manage a lift with a friend from just south of Stonehaven, but Armitage, from Bigton, said he was “pretty exhausted” after the cycle.

Meanwhile the disruption also scuppered Yvette Hopkins’ plans to meet with a friend from America who she had not seen in 40 years.

She said she was effectively stranded in Aberdeen for five days.

Her guests were due to arrive in Shetland on Thursday last week – and Hopkins, from Bigton, was scheduled to fly back home from south on that day too.

With cancelled flights and weather disruption continuing across Scotland, they changed their plans and tried to meet in Edinburgh – with Hopkins only managing to get the train from Aberdeen to the capital city on Monday morning.

She said yesterday: “It is a beautiful day, and I am on the train headed to Edinburgh to see my friends who travelled to see Shetland and to be with me.

“Got to look on the bright side; I get to see my friends for 24 hours, I got a ‘mini-personal vacation, I met some great folks, and I am being refunded. I know this will not be the case for some people, but after five days, this train feels more like than freedom than travel doom.”

Some of Hopkins’ takeaway points were that weather cannot be controlled and is part of island life, humorous Glaswegians make great travel partners – and “always pack extra knickers”.

Loganair did put on some extra flights to Shetland once conditions allowed, but there was additional disruption from two planes being damaged whilst parked at Aberdeen Airport.

Although the weather had calmed down in Shetland there was more disruption reported with Shetland flights on Monday.

Meanwhile with supermarket shelves empty of fresh produce over the weekend local organisation Shetland Food and Drink highlighted the role of local suppliers when the north boats are off.

Read this Shetland News article on local produce from last November when the boats were called off for four days in a row.

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