A year-long quest to identify a new operator for the publicly-owned Cairngorm funicular railway and associated visitor facilities has taken a significant step forward.
The Board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the development agency which owns both the mountain railway and its present operator CairnGorm Mountain Ltd (CML), has awarded preferred bidder status to tourism business Natural Retreats UK Ltd.
Announcing the Board’s decision, HIE Chief Executive Alex Paterson said: “This is a significant step forward in our procurement process, but it is not the end.
“Over the coming weeks, HIE will hold further discussions with Natural Retreats on a number of points of detail, before deciding whether or not to proceed to awarding a contract. This is a normal procedure in complex procurements which follow the ‘competitive dialogue’ methodology.
"Whatever the outcome of the upcoming discussions with our preferred bidder, the railway and visitor facilities, and, indeed, the wider Cairngorm estate, will remain in public ownership through HIE."
The Cairngorm attraction is Scotland’s only funicular railway, and contributes significantly to the important tourism sector in Aviemore and the surrounding area. Built by HIE and opened in 2000, it is well used by skiers and snowboarders through the winter, and attracts a broad range of other visitors throughout the year.