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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Balfour complete Cairngorms funicular repairs allowing UK’s highest railway to reopen

The Cairngorm mountain funicular has reopened to the public - four years after it was closed due to structural concerns following a series of delays.

The UK's highest railway was taken out of action in September 2018.

A £20m funding injection from the Scottish government was awarded in 2020, with £16m allocated for repairs with Balfour Beatty commissioned to carry out the works.

Cairngorm estate owner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) had hoped to get the funicular back up and running by the winter of 2021, but the pandemic, issues with sourcing quality construction materials and bad weather delayed the repair work.

The funicular opened in 2001 and connects a base station to a restaurant and ski area at more than 1,065m up Cairn Gorm mountain.

Susan Smith, chief executive of Cairngorm Mountain Scotland Ltd, said: "The Cairngorm Mountain team is thrilled to be welcoming snowsports enthusiasts onto the funicular railway once more.

"The improvements across the resort have brought major changes to the visitor experience and we are so pleased to see the railway transport people to the upper slopes as well as our refurbished Ptarmigan building.

Weather permitting and with the hope that our capacity will expand further as the season continues, 2023 promises to be a landmark year for our business, team and local community."

The "complex engineering" works to strengthen the viaduct and install a new control system were made further complicated due to engineers having to avoid causing damage to the mountain environment.

"Rigorous" tests on the railway and a safety certificate from the UK Department of Transport

were required before it could be made available to the public, with works being carried out by Balfour Beatty.

Weather permitting, the funicular will run a regular service taking visitors to the top of the slopes in around five minutes.

The reinstatement of the railway comes alongside other works including new "magic carpet" conveyor belts for the beginner slopes, car park improvements and the refurbishment of the Ptarmigan building.

Dave Macleod, head of property and infrastructure with HIE, said: "Reinstating the funicular has been uniquely challenging, not only in engineering terms, but also for the care that had to be taken to protect the environment during these works while also contending with some of the most severe and changeable weather that Scotland has to offer.

"Cairngorm plays an important role in the local economy as an environmental, educational and sporting asset and the funicular will enable people across a huge range of ages and abilities to enjoy the mountain not only in winter, but every season."

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