A report into the safety of the Cairngorm funicular railway has been further delayed – and will not be published until after the New Year.
The mountain railway was taken out of action in September amid fears about the supporting structure, sparking concern for the fortunes of the ski centre over the coming winter months.
Specialist engineers were brought in to assess the situation, but have been hampered by poor weather – leaving business leaders and politicians frustrated as to when a final report will be out and when the railway will finally be repaired.
However, there was some good news yesterday for skiers, with ticket prices being reduced by a quarter and news the snow factory is working well – allowing skiing to begin “in a matter of days”.
A spokesman for Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which last week took over operations after Cairngorm Mountain Ltd plunged into administration, said: “The report into the funicular has been further delayed by the weekend storm, so we won’t be able to say anything about it until January now.”
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said: “It’s disappointing that this report has been delayed again as the fate of the funicular is crucial to the health of the local economy.
“The report must be thorough but this is at least the second time it has stalled and further delays could damage the local economy.”
Kate Forbes, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP, added: “While the snow machines appear to be working well on the lower slopes and snow sports is available this season, it is important that the report on the funicular is produced so that steps can be taken to rectify any problems and get the funicular up and running quickly.”
Mike Dearman, director of Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust, said: “It’s disappointing that we won’t know the fate of the funicular for a while longer, but we appreciate that conditions on the mountain are very difficult and the delay can’t be helped.
“It has long been our view that given the complexity of the investigation alone, the funicular was unlikely to run this season, so this does not materially change our outlook.
“We are very pleased that the uncertainty over operations this winter is coming to an end with HIE’s acquisition of the operating company, and we appreciate their clarity over pricing and ticket availability. We’re now looking forward to making the most of the season ahead.”
A report was first expected by mid-November, with hopes remedial repairs could be carried out to ensure it could operate over the winter season.
However, this was put back to December 3 after the complexity of the investigations was realised, and was further delayed because of the weather, with high winds causing health and safety issues high on the mountain. Some of the monitoring cameras have also been icing up.
Revised ticket prices mean a normal one-day ticket reduced from £107.35 for a family of four to £80.50.
Adults are reduced from £37 to £27.75, juniors £22.65 to £17, seniors £27.30 to £20.45 and students £29.35 to £22.
Afternoon tickets are cheaper, including £64.40 for a family of four.