Go-ahead is given for the repair of Cairngorm funicular
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Cairngorm Mountain is to get public funding of more than £20 million to repair the funicular in time for winter 2021/22 and to help make the resort a year-round attraction.
Backers have said the investment will generate significant economic benefits for the strath and Scotland’s wider tourism sector.
More than £16 million of the money will be used to support reinstatement of the mountain railway which has been out of operation since September 2018 on safety grounds.
Funding is coming from the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
They have said decision to repair the funicular was taken following a detailed options appraisal that also considered replacing it with alternative uplift infrastructure, or removing it entirely.
Critics had called for the details of the business case to be published before any decision was made.
Initial work to strengthen the two kilometre structure is now expected to start later this month.
Once up and running, the funicular is expected to attract thousands of visitors a year, generating benefits for the wider economy in Badenoch and Strathspey, where the tourism and hospitality sectors have been hit hard by coronavirus.
A further £4.35 million has been approved for potential additional capital requirements including building improvements, electrification of snow cannons, existing tow infrastructure, paths and car parking.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “We want to unlock the full potential of Cairn Gorm to make it a destination people can enjoy all year-round, and this significant investment couldn’t come at a better time.
“We know our tourism and hospitality sectors have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic and in Badenoch and Strathspey a quarter of the workforce is in the accommodation and food services sectors – more than double the proportion for the Highlands and Islands as a whole.
"By investing in the mountain we can generate significant economic benefits for the local area and our tourism sector.
“The business case for reinstating the funicular, which HIE has published today, made clear that repair and reinstatement was the preferred option. Removal was estimated to cost approximately £17 million and would limit options around seasonal diversification on the mountain.
“The funicular will not only transport thousands of annual visitors up Cairn Gorm again next winter, it will also bring access to the mountain environment to a broad range of visitors, including children, older people and people with disabilities.”
The Scottish Government is making a capital contribution of £10.16 million while HIE will invest £10.35 million including £8.5 million that it earned from the sale of the Centre for Health Science in Inverness to the University of the Highlands and Islands.
Balfour Beatty has been appointed as the contractor for the project.
Charlotte Wright, chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “Cairn Gorm is more than a mountain. It’s at the heart of the community and a key driver of the local economy, providing high quality jobs and supporting the wider tourism sector in Strathspey and Badenoch.
“Today’s announcement signals the importance of the Cairn Gorm Estate as a national asset for Scotland, with its potential as a mountain resort alongside its unique natural habitats. This investment will ensure it is ready to welcome thousands of visitors in all seasons of the year.
“With the funicular now set to be reinstated, and a range of other priority investments planned, we can continue to work with local stakeholders to ensure the surrounding business and communities can really begin to unlock Cairn Gorm’s potential and secure its future for decades to come.”
The investment is separate to the long-term masterplan to maximise Cairn Gorm’s potential. Public consultation on the masterplan concluded on September 14 and HIE has said it will provide an update on the next steps in due course.
HIE’s business case for Cairn Gorm, published today on its website www.hie.co.uk also details revenue costs of between £9.76 million and £14.57 million over a five-year period to support the operating company until 2026.
Internal project management by HIE has also been costed at £1.88 million over the same five-year period.