All train services in the Scottish Highlands will be cancelled on Thursday morning after forecasters predicted Storm Caroline would bring potentially life-threatening winds of up to 90mph.
ScotRail will suspend its morning services from Aberdeen to Inverness, and from Inverness to Wick and to Kyle of Lochalsh, as well as the famous West Highland line service from Glasgow Queen Street to Oban, Fort William and Mallaig.
The measures came as the Met Office raised its weather warning from yellow to an amber “be prepared” for northern Scotland on Thursday. Strong gusts are likely to disrupt roads and ferries as well as triggering localised power cuts.
The ferry operator CalMac, which runs a large majority of services to the Hebridean islands, warned that numerous services had already been disrupted or cancelled, affecting travel to Barra, Tiree, Mull and Iona, Harris, Mallaig and Stornoway among others.
The warning for strong winds will be in place from 6am until 11.55pm on Thursday, the Met Office said.
Gusts of 70-80mph were expected in northern Scotland, potentially reaching 90mph in exposed areas.
A yellow “be aware” warning will be in force for the southern half of Scotland and northern parts of Northern Ireland between 6am and 6pm on 7 December.
Snow and ice have been forecast for large parts of the UK on Friday and Saturday, when Orkney and Shetland are expected to experience high winds.
The Met Office said: “Flying debris is likely and could lead to injuries or danger to life. Some damage to buildings is possible, such as tiles blowing off roofs.
“Longer journey times and cancellations are likely as road, rail, air and ferry services may be affected. There is a good chance that power cuts may also occur. Large waves are expected and beach material may be thrown on to coastal roads, seafronts and properties.”
ScotRail said a safety inspection would take place on affected routes on Thursday morning before it decided whether to resume services. Speed restrictions would be imposed between Perth and Aberdeen and Perth to Inverness, which would cause disruption.
David Lister, the safety and sustainability director for ScotRail Alliance, said: “This isn’t a decision that we have taken lightly, but the safety and security of our staff and customers must come first. Our staff will be working round the clock to get services back to normal and get customers moving as soon as possible.”
Marco Petagna, a Met Office meteorologist, said: “Wednesday will be the last of the mild days, with temperatures in double figures, between 10C and 12C (50F-54F).
“Overnight, the main feature will be the increase in wind as Caroline starts to come in towards the end of the night.”
Dozens of workers are being evacuated from a North Sea platform amid safety fears. The gas product supplier CNR International said 69 of its 159 staff on the Ninian South platform, about 240 miles from Aberdeen, were leaving as a precaution.
Snow and falling temperatures have also been forecast for parts of the UK this week. A yellow snow and ice warning is in place for Friday in Scotland, Northern Ireland, western England and Wales.