Testing Set to Start on Cairngorm Funicular
16th November 2022
Last modified on November 20th, 2022
The series of repair works is nearing completion and final testing is about to start. It should be open for skiers and snowboarders in early 2023 and is part of wider improvements to the Scottish ski area.
The programme of works is nearing completion with a new control system about to be installed.
Over the coming weeks fibre optic cabling will be laid and the system will be repeatedly tested under live conditions.
This means that Cairngorm Mountain trains are using the funicular track again for the first time in four years.
Testing is expected to continue into December.
Safety certificates from the Department for Transport will also be required and HIE expects these will be obtained early in the new year.
While work continues on the control system, car park improvements at Cairngorm Mountain are nearing conclusion.
A new conveyor system is also being installed to provide uplift for snowsports beginners and, in future, family-friendly mountain biking.
The Ptarmigan building at the top station, which houses the UK’s highest restaurant, a shop, exhibition space and viewing platforms, has been given a major makeover too.
A key attraction at the Cairngorm Mountain resort, the funicular opened in 2001 and was taken out of service in October 2018 following a safety inspection.
We have been following its progress, and lack of progress, on PlanetSKI.
The repairs have been marred by setbacks and delays:
The works were originally planned to be finished by autumn 2021.
The construction timetable had to be extended due to multiple factors, including spring blizzards, impacts arising from Covid and Brexit, and technical challenges which resulted in additional works needing to be carried out.
Significant cost inflation in the construction sector and the weakness of sterling in international exchange rates have also delivered financial impacts.
As a result, HIE now estimates that the final cost of reinstating the funicular railway will be in the region of £25m.
This compares with £16.16m that was originally budgeted as part of a wider capital investment package approved by the HIE Board and the Scottish Government in 2020.
It is part of a £20.5m business case that includes other priority investments to strengthen Cairngorm Mountain’s year-round appeal.
HIE has reallocated uncommitted funds from the wider Cairngorm masterplan capital investment package to meet the additional costs.
The Scottish Government also allocated £7m additional funding in June 2022.
HIE is currently pursuing legal action against the funicular’s original designer and construction contractor in the Court of Session, in a bid to recoup public funding.
“The funicular reinstatement programme is undoubtedly one of the most challenging civil engineering projects currently taking place in Scotland.,” said the head of property and infrastructure with HIE, Dave Macleod.
“Essentially, it involves strengthening a series of 94 interconnected bridges which are part of a 2km structure, each with its own challenges and at high altitude in a difficult mountain environment.
“The loop section where the carriages pass one another on separate tracks is another feature that required a great deal of ingenuity to solve.
“Balfour Beatty have truly pulled out all the stops to reach this vital stage in the project and it’s really exciting to think that we are now looking at the prospect of passengers riding on this spectacular mountain railway again early next year.”
Contractors will continue to work on the mountain removing final materials and demobilising until the end of the year.
Environmental restoration works, including replanting and re-seeding, will proceed during 2023 and beyond.