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Thursday July 4, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

Work to fix the railway that takes skiers & snowboarders to the top of the Scottish mountain will not start until at least next Spring.




The UK's highest mountain railway has been out of service since October 2018 after an engineering inspection revealed structural problems, raising safety concerns.

There were fears that the closure would extend into another snowsports season and now it's been confirmed.

The earliest a programme of repairs can begin is spring or summer 2020.

The railway's piers, beams and foundations all need to be strengthened, and new bearings installed, before it can run safely again.

The landowner, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), says all investigations so far suggest the repairs are ‘technially achievable'.

HIE cites a combination of public procurement regulations and extreme weather conditions over winter as the reasons for the delay.

So, for the second successive winter, the main lift will be out of action.

Cairngorm funicularOut of action again next winter

















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Without the funicular, which rises to 1,097 metres, the higher ski runs are reached by drag lifts.

They can run only if there is sufficient snow cover.

Artificial snowmaking machines will continue to be used on the lower slopes.

Snowmaking at CairngormSnowmaking factory at Cairngorm

While it's not come as a surprise, the continued closure of the funicular is a blow to the local economy.

Some regulars believe it should be scrapped and alternative lifts built to attract skiers and snowboarders who have deserted the mountain for other Scottish ski areas.

But HIE insists it is a crucial part of the future of Cairngorm, though the cost of the repairs and how they will be funded are yet to be determined.

"Cairngorm is a key asset for Scotland, both environmentally and economically, and the funicular is a key asset for Cairngorm, said Douglas Cowan, director of communities and place at HIE.

"It's absolutely vital that we continue to address the serious challenges caused by the funicular being out of action and ensure that Cairngorm Mountain remains a significant driver of the local economy.

"HIE and the Scottish Government are agreed that repair is the preferred option in principle, though it's important to stress that we need to conclude the engineers' reviews and determine costs and funding sources before this can be approved.

"At the same time, we must continue to look to the long-term, and ensure that local people have a meaningful opportunity to put forward views that will inform a future masterplan that will shape our experience of Cairngorm for decades to come."

HIE logoHIE owns the Cairngorm estate










HIE says it wants to make Cairngorm a premier Scottish ski centre and visitor attraction in winter and summer.

A 2018 report by US-based consultants looked at potential investment priorities for Cairngorm.

It has just been updated in light of the problems with the funicular.

The report proposes a new six-person chairlift, enhanced snow making, and improvements to the terrain on the mountain, including smoother runs and extra skiing routes.

It also recommends a carpet conveyor for beginners and better base area facilities and food options.

The aim is to bring Cairngorm close to achieving its previous ski visitor numbers of around 130,000 a year.

For the summer, it now says a proposed mountain coaster should set off from the base area to improve access for all visitors, and that opportunities for mountain biking should be explored, while recognising the the need for robust measures to protect the environment.

Cairngorm funicularThe funicular in summer















HIE says the consultants' reports will be influential in developing a masterplan for Cairngorm in conjunction with local people.

"This has been a difficult period for Cairngorm Mountain, but the staff remain absolutely dedicated to the mountain and the business, and are putting in a tremendous effort to create a brighter future, said Susan Smith, interim chief executive of of Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd.

"We very much welcome this update, which underlines both the fantastic potential of Cairngorm as a national asset and the importance of the funicular to a successful mountain resort.

"It is absolutely vital that we establish CMSL as a viable business, with strong growth potential and a key role in supporting the wider economy of Badenoch and Strathspey.

"With support from HIE, we are already implementing some of the original report's recommendations, including improvements to facilities and activities at the base area, in ways that are in keeping with the mountain environment."

HIE has given some financial support to the Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust, whose aim is for the local community to takeover and run the Cairngorm Mountain estate.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: Number One for ski news

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