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Cairngorm funicular railway repairs halted for the winter season amid delays

The Cairngorm funicular railway was closed in 2018 after just 17 years of operation due to structural problems.
The Cairngorm funicular railway was closed in 2018 after just 17 years of operation due to structural problems.

Work to strengthen the supports which carry the Cairngorm funicular railway has been halted for the next few months as the area welcomes skiers for the winter season.

A workforce from Balfour Beatty has been working to address structural problems along the UK’s highest railway.

This includes work on the 1.8km viaduct that spans a gorge as the track heads up towards the summit of Cairn Gorm.

Due to structural issues the railway was closed in 2018 however in October 2020, the Scottish Government provided over £16 million for the work needed for the railway to operate again.

Work began in early November 2020 and will continue into the new year due to delays caused by the pandemic, material shortages and harsh weather conditions on-site.

Work on the railway will be halted to welcome skiers for the snowsports season. Picture by Sandy McCook.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) who operate the railway were hoping to have it operational within the first half of 2022 however the date has now been pushed back to autumn 2022.

The team are currently preparing for the winter shutdown and will not return to the site until spring 2022.

This is due to the snowsports season that starts on December 17, which could come earlier due to forecasts of natural snow on the peaks.

HIE’s interim chief executive, Carrol Buxton said that it was their “absolute ambition” for the railway to be up and running as soon as possible.

Over the past nine months, construction teams have installed new concrete jackets on 59 of the 94 piers that hold up the funicular railway, strengthening the structure.

Cairngorm funicular railway to reopen in autumn 2022

James Palmer, HIE’s Cairngorm project manager, said: “From an engineering perspective, the funicular reinstatement is an enormously complex project.

“Essentially, the sub-structure is a linked series of 94 small bridges, each one built to a different height and running up the side of a mountain.

“Then, on top of that, you have a solid platform to support the rails and all the moving parts that are essential to ensure safe operations.

“When you consider all the challenges involved during 2021, the progress achieved by Balfour Beatty has been impressive.

“During the winter, we’ll continue to be busy behind the scenes so that when work resumes on site next spring, we can move at pace to carry out the remainder of the project and get the funicular back up and running again.”

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