Cairngorm Mountain funicular railway back in action following ‘complex’ civils work

THE Cairngorm Mountain’s funicular railway is back in action following completion of repair works in what has been described as one of Scotland’s ‘most complex’ civil engineering projects.

Described as a ‘key attraction’ at the mountain resort in Aviemore, the funicular railway first opened in 2001 before being taken out of service in late 2018 following a safety inspection.

Balfour Beatty was appointed by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to lead the engineering project to strengthen the viaduct and install a new control system – all within the ‘strict’ environmental requirements of the unique mountain environment.

Originally planned to conclude in August 2021, the £25 million project had to be extended due to multiple factors including spring blizzards, impacts arising from Covid and Brexit, technical challenges, and ‘significant’ cost inflations.

Now, following ‘significant’ quality and safety testing, the UK Department of Transport has issued the certification and approval required for operations to recommence, with Scotland’s only funicular railway now back in service for the 2023 snowsports season.

Weather conditions permitting, the 2km railway will run a regular service taking snowsports enthusiasts to the top of the slopes in around five minutes. The reinstatement of the railway comes alongside other ‘major’ improvement works including new ‘magic carpet’ conveyor belts for the beginner slopes, car park improvements, and the refurbishment of the Ptarmigan building.

Housing the UK’s highest restaurant, a 270° immersive exhibition space and viewing platform, the Ptarmigan is located at the top station of the mountain railway. The newly designed restaurant has been transformed into a light, contemporary space with an open plan gin bar, cosy log fire, and floor to ceiling windows for guests to enjoy the views of the mountain range.

Susan Smith, CEO of Cairngorm Mountain Scotland Limited (CMSL), 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.”

Dave Macleod, head of property and infrastructure at HIE, added, “It’s wonderful to see the mountain railway back in action again. This will make a huge improvement to the customer experience at Cairngorm and strengthen the appeal of the wider area to attract visitors throughout the year.

“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.”