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Cairngorm Funicular Out of Action this Winter

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has announced another delay to the repair works. It will come as a blow to the Scottish resort and those that ski and snowboard there.

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The current phase of engineering works to strengthen the 1.9km viaduct that supports the railway track began in April 2021, with the aim of returning the funicular to service early next year.

It was hoped to operate during the ski season but now it has been announced that it will not be ready until the second half of 2022 at the earliest.

It will be another blow for the local economy.

Skiers and snowboarders will be able to access the slopes using the 9 ski lifts that will run every day when weather conditions are suitable.

According to the development agency, several factors have combined to lengthen the funicular reinstatement programme.

  • Technical challenges associated with designing and implementing effective solutions to an existing structure, as opposed to a new build.
  • Progress has been hampered by Covid-19.
  • Extreme weather, particularly blizzard conditions last spring.
  • Sort supply of construction materials across the UK.

“The funicular has been a key element of what draws people to Cairngorm and it will be again, once these works are completed,” said the HIE interim chief executive, Carroll Buxton.

“We’ve always been upfront in describing the reinstatement programme as one of the most complex and difficult civil engineering projects in Scotland.

“As well as managing technical challenges, the team has to take great care to protect the mountain environment, and deal with difficult terrain and extreme weather conditions that can quickly become hazardous.

“The original schedule was very ambitious, even without the impacts of the pandemic lasting as long as they have and before the more recent problems in sourcing construction materials of suitable quality.

“With limited time available to complete these works before winter, postponement has become inevitable.”

Cairngorm. Image © Rod Frazer

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The funicular opened in 2001 but was taken out of service in 2018 after an engineers’ inspection identified structural defects that raised safety concerns.

More detailed inspection and design work followed before the decision to reinstate the funicular was announced last October by the Scottish Government, as part of a £20.5m business case that includes other priority investments to strengthen Cairngorm Mountain’s year-round appeal.

The business case assessed alternatives to reinstatement before reaching its conclusions, including removing the structure, and replacing it with alternative uplift.

“We’re now working with our designers and contractors on a revised schedule for the remainder of the project,” added Ms Buxton.

“Harsh mountain conditions mean that all work will need to halt over winter and resume next spring. To ensure safety, there also needs to be a period of testing and certification at the end of the programme, so our current expectation is that the funicular can be relaunched in autumn 2022.

“Clearly, a longer timescale will also have a financial impact. We’ll be reviewing costs very carefully and will publicly confirm a revised budget as soon as it’s possible to do so.”

The Highlands, Scotland

The Highlands, Scotland. Image © PlanetSKI

Confirming its commitment to the mountain resort, HIE has also approved up to £780,000 for an extensive refurbishment of the Ptarmigan building that sits on the plateau and includes the UK’s highest restaurant, a shop, exhibition space and viewing platforms.

The refurbishment is due to start at the end of August and be completed by the end of 2021.

Image c/o Cairngorm Mountain

Image c/o Cairngorm Mountain

 

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