The £16m funicular reinstatement project, funded by the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), will strengthen key elements of the railway’s 2km supporting structure, including foundations, piers and beams, as well as replacing hundreds of sliding bearings.
Contractors Balfour Beatty carried out some preparatory works during the last week of October, including carefully marking out areas that have been designated for environmental protection during the construction period.
This week, the team is starting to excavate areas around four of the 94 piers that support the structure. Local civil engineering company McGowan is supplying equipment.
The funicular, which opened in 2001 to carry Cairngorm Mountain visitors between the base station and the Ptarmigan building, has been out of service since September 2018, following an inspection that raised safety concerns.
Reinstating the mountain railway forms the major part of a £20m business case developed by HIE to help sustain Cairngorm as a year-round visitor attraction and an important driver of the local economy.
Cairngorm Mountain plans to remain open throughout the construction period. A range of activities are currently available for visitors, including the shop and café, ranger services and a tubing slide, all operating within COVID guidelines.
Over winter, ski lifts will be available to provide mountain access for skiers and snowboarders, with appropriate social distancing measures in place.
Douglas Cowan, director of communities and place with HIE, said:
“This is a very significant milestone for Cairngorm and it’s fantastic to see these works getting under way.
“Reinstating the funicular is a hugely complex engineering project in very challenging mountain conditions and the contractors have a limited window of opportunity before extreme winter conditions really start to bite.
“The plan is to keep working for as long as possible during what remains of 2020, then resume as early as we can in the new year. That way, we can continue to keep the project on track to resume the service as planned in winter 2021/22.”