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Extensive repair plan revealed for the Cairngorm funicular

By Gavin Musgrove

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Details have emerged of the extensive works required to repair the £20 million Cairngorm funicular which has been out of operation for the past 18 months because of safety concerns.

The mountain resort owners Highlands and Islands Enterprise recently submitted a planning application for the engineering works.

The application involves work around the pier bases and foundations supporting the track, and the application of concrete and installation of supporting props to affected piers.

The Cairngorm funicular has not run since Autumn 2018 because of safety concerns about the concrete piers which carry the 1.9 kilometres of track.
The Cairngorm funicular has not run since Autumn 2018 because of safety concerns about the concrete piers which carry the 1.9 kilometres of track.

Now two reports have been submitted as part of the application which has been called in by the Cairngorms National Park Authority for determination.

They are the habitat management and restoration plan, and peat and groundwater dependent terrestrial ecosystem report.

An overview of the project contained in the documents reveals: “The proposed development is for the installation of permanent props to numerous piers along the length of the viaduct...

“The proposal also includes repair strengthening works to the existing viaduct structure.

“These repair strengthening works are required for the Cairngorm funicular to resume operation.”

The scope of works to support the 1.9km long track includes:

* Propping of 60 piers with two props and foundations;

* providing five bearings at anchor blocks;

* replacing two existing bearings at each pier location; and

* providing an additional lateral restraint bearing at each pier location; and providing external beam strengthening to beams and beam ends.

An HIE spokesman said: “We are keen to keep to the process of having everything in place ready to start strengthening works on the funicular as soon as possible.

“At the same time, we do of course recognise this is in the context of the wider national crisis and the potential for that to impact progress in different ways.”

The report states that Balfour Beatty produced a methodology report last month to demonstrate that the strengthening works can be undertaken, and this has been submitted to support the planning application.

Associated construction activities taking place at Cairngorm Mountain will also include site accommodation and compounds.

Excavations for the pier prop footings and foundations for the 60 piers are estimated to be at depths between one metre up to 3.5 metres.

The developers have said there will likely be “dewatering and habitat disturbance” within the site.

Atmos Consulting was commissioned by HIE last Autumn to produce the 13-page habitat report

Evidence of notable species found on site included water voles and mountain hares as well as a wide range of bird life.

These include golden eagle, dotterel, peregrine, black redstart and snow bunting.

The report states on water voles: “The only field signs recorded were numerous burrows below the main visitor centre and a number of latrines; no feeding signs or prints were found.”

The 35-page ecosystem report covers hydro-ecological and hydro-geological work and details how peat at the site will be protected during the works.

HIE has said that it is committed to repairing the mountain railway which opened in December 2001 providing the business case stacks up for its retention.

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