At its meeting in Oban yesterday (Wednesday 30 October), members received an update on the current situation with the funicular railway, which was closed last month after an inspection raised safety concerns.
A detailed specialist investigation to determine what remedial work may be required to reopen the service is currently under way and expected to report at the start of December.
Meeting on Tuesday (30 October), the Board of HIE agreed to invest £1m in a snowmaking machine and snow cannons for use at lower levels. This will enable the ski tows to operate when there is snow in the higher slopes but not lower down. It will also make the mountain more accessible for beginners and families, and reduce congestion in other high traffic areas.
The Board also welcomed HIE’s plans to publish the findings of a major review of uplift infrastructure at the resort. This is expected in the next two weeks, and will be used to steer future investment at Cairngorm.
Professor Lorne Crerar, chair of HIE, 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 underway 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.
“While the uplift review isn’t intended to resolve the current issues, it will be instrumental in steering future investment at Cairngorm and creating a world-class year-round attraction. We look forward to sharing the findings of this comprehensive study, carried out by independent global experts.”
A response group set up by HIE to address the potential impacts of the funicular closure has met twice already. This is chaired by Cllr Bill Lobban, local councillor and convener of The Highland Council.
Members include representatives from: Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust, Aviemore Business Association, Cairngorm Mountain Trust, Cairngorm Business Partnership, resort operator CairnGorm Mountain Ltd (CML), the Cairngorms National Park Authority, HIE, the Highland Council, Snowsport Scotland, and VisitScotland.
All partners have recognised the significant importance of Cairngorm to the Badenoch and Strathspey economy and agreed to pull together to ensure its success as a year-round visitor attraction, both now and in the longer term.