Highlands & Islands

CairnGorm Mountain railway closed for 'several weeks'

CairnGorm funicular railway Image copyright PA
Image caption The railway connects a base station with a restaurant 1,097m up Cairn Gorm mountain

The UK's highest railway has been closed due to problems with the structure supporting the tracks.

The operation of the CairnGorm Mountain funicular, near Aviemore, had been restricted in the lead up to Monday's decision to close it.

Specialist engineers will carry out a detailed structural assessment.

The findings of the investigation will not be known until November and the railway will remain closed during that time.

The investigation should confirm what remedial work is necessary and how long that is likely to take to complete.

'It would be a disaster'

The initial work will include excavation to enable the inspection of foundations in the affected area.

CairnGorm Mountain said issue affecting the funicular was not related to beam issues which were identified and repaired last year.

Built at a cost of £26m and opened in 2001, the railway connects a base station with a restaurant 1,097m (3,599ft) up Cairn Gorm mountain.

Thousands of people use it, including skiers and snowboarders during the ski season to access slopes. Many of these visitors also spend time in and around Aviemore.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Thousands of people use the fenicular railway to access the slopes

Alan Brattey, of the Aviemore Business Association, said there was real concern about the closure continuing deep into the snow sports season.

"It would be a disaster because there isn't any other way from skiers and boarders to access the mountain if there isn't snow all the way down to the car park," he said.

"Learners and kids wouldn't be able to get up to the area where the ski school operates without the funicular railway, it's impossible."

Course of action

Ewan Kearney, chief operating officer at CairnGorm Mountain Limited (CML) said: "As operators of such a unique visitor attraction as the funicular, we take our responsibility and duty of care to the public and our staff extremely seriously.

"It is in everybody's best interests to close the funicular to allow the engineers to conduct their investigation. Our priority is to get a clear picture of any faults with the funicular in order to develop a course of action that addresses these concerns.

"Rest assured, we do not underestimate the significance of this situation to the entire local area, including our own employees, and are working to resolve this situation quickly and safely, for the future benefit of all mountain visitors."

He added: "At this stage, we are unable to provide a detailed timeline for the re-opening of the funicular and will issue further updates as we are able to do so."

'Highly regrettable situation'

Susan Smith, head of business development at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said: "This is a highly regrettable situation, over which we have very limited control.

"Clearly it will have a considerable impact on the commercial operations on Cairngorm, and be of concern to those employed at the resort. Our thoughts are very much with them as well as those who use the mountain and its facilities.

"We are treating this as extremely urgent and doing all we can to address the problem and have the funicular returned to full service as quickly as possible.

"In the meantime, safety must come first and we fully respect CML's decision to act on the precautionary advice of the inspectors."

The railway and the CairnGorm Mountain snowsports centre are owned by HIE and run on its behalf by the company Natural Retreats.

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