Highlands & Islands

'Tough decisions' on Cairngorms funicular's future

Cairngorm funicular Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Cairngorms' funicular railway has been closed since September last year

"Tough decisions" will have to be made on the cost of repairing the Cairngorms' funicular, a public spending watchdog has warned.

Managed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the UK's highest railway has been shut for almost a year due to structural problems.

HIE has said it would be cheaper to repair the funicular than remove it.

But Audit Scotland said it was still not clear how much repairs would cost or how they could be afforded.

In a new report, the watchdog also said it was unclear what impact the cost would have on HIE's financial sustainability.

Audit Scotland said the public enterprise agency recognised these risks and had raised them with the Scottish government.

The watchdog said: "Tough decisions are likely to be required over the coming months."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption HIE says it would be cheaper to repair the funicular

Audit Scotland's report follows an audit of HIE's annual report and accounts.

HIE's handling of the collapse of Cairngorm Mountain Ltd (CML), which operated the funicular and wider Cairngorm Mountain ski resort on HIE's behalf, is also a feature of its annual report.

CML went into administration in November, after the closure of the funicular in September.

HIE set up a new company to run the ski resort.

Audit Scotland said HIE considered Cairngorm Mountain a "high risk" that was resulting in "significant capacity and resource challenges".

The watchdog said a further report on the funicular would be presented to the Scottish Parliament next year.

Built at a cost of £26m, it connects a base station with a restaurant 1,097m (3,599ft) up Cairn Gorm mountain.

HIE said specialist structural engineers had been carrying out a further detail examination of issues affecting the beams of the railway, near Aviemore, this week.

Repairs are required to almost half of the railway's piers, almost 300 bearings need to be replaced and joints and connections on beams need to be reinforced.

The Scottish government will have to approve the repairs once the final cost is known.

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