Highlands & Islands

Cairngorm funicular railway in walkers trial

Cairngorm funicular railway passengers are to be allowed to walk from the top station on to the mountain for the first time.

Since opening in 2001, hillwalkers have not been allowed to use the funicular as a quick means of reaching the Cairngorm plateau.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Highland Council have given permission for a "closely controlled" trial.

Walk @ The Top will start later this summer and run until 31 October.

The guided walks will not last any longer than 90 minutes.

Until now, walkers have been asked to walk from lower down the mountain.

'Carefully managed'

The restriction on using the funicular has been seen by ski resort CairnGorm Mountain as a way of preventing damage to the environment.

It said walkers would remain within the ski area and not go into sites protected under European rules.

Chief executive Ian Whitaker said: "CairnGorm Mountain welcomes the opportunity to manage trial visitor walks from the Ptarmigan Top Station this summer.

"The trial walks will be carefully managed and monitored in accordance with the agreed operating procedure and all data will be subject to review by SNH and Highland Council at the end of the trial period."

CairnGorm Mountain runs the funicular on behalf of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Warmer winters

In March, MSPs criticised the public agency for failing to take account of risks to the running of the railway that led to "spiralling" costs.

The Scottish Parliament's audit committee reviewed HIE's spending on the funicular.

MSPs said threats such as warmer winters' effect on skiing were not taken into account.

Over the next three to four years, HIE is to spend up to £4m on maintaining the railway.

It said the investment would bring the site up to a standard that would attract a new operator from the private sector.

It has also proposed introducing charges at a car park serving the railway.

According to HIE, about 400,000 people used the car park last year.

It said half of those visitors used the funicular.

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