Balfour Beatty has been awarded a contract worth approximately £20.5m for work at Cairn Gorm, including the reinstatement of Scotland’s only funicular railway.
The contract is intended to make Cairn Gorm a year-round tourist attraction generating economic benefits.
More than £16m of the work, which is funded by the Scottish government and Highlands & Islands Enterprise will be used to support reinstatement of the funicular railway and bring it back into service during winter 2021 – 2022. The decision to reinstate the funicular was taken following a detailed options appraisal that also considered replacing it with alternative uplift infrastructure, or to remove it altogether.
Initial work to strengthen the 2km structure, which has been out of action since 2018, is expected to begin later this month. Once it is up and running, the funicular is expected to attract thousands of visitors each 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.
Fergus Ewing, rural economy secretary, 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 have come at a better time” “We know that 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 service 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, made clear that repair and reinstatement was the preferred option. Removal was estimated to cost approximately £17m 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”.
Chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Charlotte Wright, said: “Cairn Gorm is 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 during all the seasons of the year”.
“With the funicular set to be reinstated, and a range of other priority investments which are 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”.