The owners of the Scottish ski area announce the railway will remain shut throughout summer & possibly beyond.

It follows a detailed investigation into safety concerns over the structure of the funicular railway.
The railway is the main route to the top of the mountain for skiers and snowboarders in winter and is a popular tourist attraction in summer.
The latest news is bound to have a serious impact on the number of summer visitors to Cairngorm.
The funicular has been out of action since September.

The investigation, by specialist engineers, was commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which owns Cairngorm, following safety concerns raised in an inspection last autumn.

HIE says the engineers have concluded that the structure does not present an immediate danger to the public.

However, the safety margin is ‘lower than desirable and a series of measures should be put in place to address weaknesses before resumption of service’.

The investigation by engineers COWI was carried out between September and December last year.

It included excavating around foundations and intrusive investigations of the structure.

Cairngorm funicular

Cairngorm funicular

HIE says that work is required to strengthen the piers, beams and foundations, and install new bearings with higher load and movement capacity.

It’s in the process of exploring the scope and cost of these works, which is expected to take several weeks.

It’s also commissioning an independent peer review of COWI’s report, in line with industry best practice for such complex investigations.

“Work on the structure of the funicular can only be carried out during summer months when the mountain is more accessible to contractors,” HIE says in a statement on its website.

“It will therefore remain out of service for the remainder of the current winter season and throughout the summer months and possibly longer.”

The operators of the hill, Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd (CMSL) are said to be working on alternative plans for summer visitors.

Save The Ciste, a pressure group that wants chairlifts restored to the mountain, says the situation is disappointing but not surprising.

“Real questions have to be asked at the highest levels of parliament now as to how the decisions of HIE and the operating company have led Strathspey and Badenoch into this sorry situation, vulnerable to single points of failure through their core lift policy, and the destruction of the Ciste Chairlifts which would have provided alternate access and mitigated a huge amount of the present problem and concern. Baffling.”

There’s been a lot of reaction to the news on the Save The Ciste Facebook page:

Facebook reaction

Reaction to the news

The Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust, which wants Cairngorm to be run by the local community, also said the extended closure was not a surprise.

“It’s clear from the length of the investigation and the delays in publishing the report that the issues were likely to be substantial,” the Trust said.

“AGCT has been pushing HIE since before Christmas to develop plans in anticipation of this, such as substantial changes to the catering/shop and environmental improvements around the base station.

“We are yet to hear of any significant plans from HIE or CMSL to protect jobs and tourism over the summer months.”

Some efforts have been made to protect winter tourism.
New snowmaking equipment began operating at Cairngorm in December which HIE says is proving popular with beginners.
Snow factory at Cairngorm

New snow factory at Cairngorm

Up to 100 skiers a day can access the artificial snow on the lower slopes, and ski tows can provide uplift to higher parts of the mountain when there is enough natural snowfall and conditions are favourable.

The HIE subsidiary,  Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Limited (CMSL), which now operates the site, says it is starting to develop a range of alternative options for summer visitors.

“We have considered carefully the implications of the investigation and concluded it will take considerable time to design, procure and complete the necessary works,” said Susan Smith, HIE’s head of business development.

“Our goal is to have the funicular up and running as soon as is safe to do so, but in the meantime, we anticipate it will remain out of service throughout the summer months and possibly beyond.

“We will provide further updates as things progress.”

Cairngorm Funicular

Cairngorm Funicular in summer

Ross Harris, interim chief executive of CMSL, added:

“Cairngorm Mountain is an outstanding all year-round tourist attraction. The funicular is of course a unique feature of Cairngorm, but there is so much more to experience.

“We are working hard to ensure that we continue to provide the best experience possible for our snowsports customers who can access the mountain using our network of tows and we are confident we can build on an already attractive offering for our summer visitors.

“We are focused on making Cairngorm Mountain a ‘must visit’ destination because we know that in doing so the resort will continue to provide economic benefits for the entire Strathspey area for years to come.”

CMSL took over operations at the ski area on 14th December after the previous operators, Cairngorm Mountain Limited (CML), went into administration in November.

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