Cairngorm funicular 'could be closed for whole season'
A worst-case scenario could close Cairngorm mountain funicular for the whole season.
The Cairngorm mountain funicular could be closed for the whole season in a worst-case scenario, enterprise chiefs have warned.
The highest railway in the United Kingdom has been closed since September due to safety concerns over structures supporting the tracks.
The Board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has approved a £1m investment in a snowmaking machine and snow cannons to ensure the mountain can open for skiing this winter.
HIE said this will enable the ski tows to operate when there is snow in the higher slopes but not lower down and will also make the mountain more accessible for beginners and families.
A detailed specialist investigation is under way to determine what remedial work may be needed to reopen the funicular, and is expected to publish its findings at the start of December.
Professor Lorne Crerar, HIE chair, said: "Board members are deeply concerned about the closure of the funicular and the impact this will be having locally.
"Investigation into the concerns is well under way and we eagerly anticipate a report on that in early December, along with plans for any remedial work needed to restore the service.
"This investment means that, even if the worst case scenario comes to pass and the funicular is out of action for the season, we can still look forward to a season of winter sports at Cairngorm, just as in any other year.
"In addition to getting the funicular back into use, our prime concern now is the impact the closure will be having on operational staff at Cairngorm and on the many local businesses that have strong links to activities on the mountain. HIE staff are working with Business Gateway to provide local business support, and that is crucial.
"We certainly support the acquisition of snowmaking equipment and are determined to have something in place for skiers when the season kicks off."
The funicular takes skiers, snowboarders and walkers two kilometres up Cairn Gorm mountain.
HIE agreed the £1m investment in snowmaking equipment at a meeting on Tuesday.
Ewan Kearney, chief operating officer at CairnGorm Mountain, said: "This new snowmaking equipment at CairnGorm Mountain will go a long way to supporting the surface lifts running out of the day lodge area and create a learner area meaning snowsports enthusiasts can come to our resort and enjoy skiing and snowboarding.
"This is great news for beginners and families who love to come to CairnGorm Mountain.
"Our technical operations team is working hard to get the new equipment in place as soon as possible."