The results of an in-depth investigation by Scotland’s public spending watchdog into the crisis-hit Cairngorm funicular will be presented to the Scottish Parliament next month.
Audit Scotland launched the probe into Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s (HIE) handling of the mountain railway’s closure and other problems at the winter sports resort last August.
At the time, Auditor General Caroline Gardener, warned “tough decisions” were likely to be required on funding multi-million pound repairs to the funicular, which has been out of action since structural problems were found in its concrete support beams in September 2018.
Yesterday an HIE spokesman said it had “provided full access” to the auditors and added the organisation hopes a planning application for the repair work would be considered later this month.
HIE, which owns the Cairngorm Estate, awarded Natural Retreats UK a 25-year contract to run the snowsports centre, near Aviemore, in 2014. In December 2018, the Scottish Government-funded development agency stepped in to manage the resort when the leisure company placed its subsidiary that operated it, CairnGorm Mountain (CML), into administration following the funicular’s closure.
Staff and assets of the failed firm were transferred to a new company, Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland), set up by HIE in November 2018 to keep the resort operating, with the support of the agency’s own staff.
The findings of the Audit Scotland inquiry, known as a “Section 23” review, were due to have been published this month, but have been delayed by Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
An HIE spokesman said: “Audit Scotland have informed us of their intention to revise their timetable for the publication of the Section 23 review. We have been engaging with the Audit Scotland team since the review began, and provided full access to all the information we hold concerning the relevant period.
“Before lockdown, 2020 had been shaping up to be a much better winter season than the year before. Snowsports conditions had been excellent and many customers commented that the quality of service had improved greatly through the new operating company.
“HIE remains hopeful that our planning application to strengthen the funicular infrastructure will be able to be considered by the Cairngorms National Park Authority on 22 May. Gaining consent would be a significant step towards realising our ambition to reinstate the mountain railway, subject to an options appraisal and detailed business case also being approved.”