The Cairngorm mountain funicular will remain closed over winter despite £20m of government funding for it to reopen this year.
Owner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has confirmed it will be out of action during the winter months because of delays to repair work, the coronavirus pandemic and blizzards earlier in the year.
The funicular opened in 2001 but has been closed since September 2018 due to safety concerns about structures supporting the tracks, with the previous owners entering administration shortly afterwards.
A £20m funding injection from the Scottish Government was awarded in October last year with the intention of reopening the railway in 2021, with £16m allocated for repairs.
HIE has now announced the expected reopening date has now been pushed back to the second half of 2022.
Regardless of delays to the funicular work, the mountain resort will stay open throughout winter, with snowboarders and skiers able to access the slopes by nine ski tows that will operate when the weather allows.
HIE interim chief executive Carroll Buxton said: “Cairngorm Mountain Estate is a great visitor attraction that plays an important role in the local economy.
“The funicular has been a key element of what draws people to Cairngorm and it will be again, once these works are completed.
“We’ve always been upfront in describing the reinstatement programme as one of the most complex and difficult civil engineering projects in Scotland.
“As well as managing technical challenges, the team has to take great care to protect the mountain environment and deal with difficult terrain and extreme weather conditions that can quickly become hazardous.
“The original schedule was very ambitious, even without the impacts of the pandemic lasting as long as they have and before the more recent problems in sourcing construction materials of suitable quality.
“With limited time available to complete these works before winter, postponement has become inevitable.”
She added: “We’re now working with our designers and contractors on a revised schedule for the remainder of the project.
“Harsh mountain conditions mean that all work will need to halt over winter and resume next spring. To ensure safety, there also needs to be a period of testing and certification at the end of the programme, so our current expectation is that the funicular can be relaunched in autumn 2022.
“Clearly, a longer timescale will also have a financial impact. We’ll be reviewing costs very carefully and will publicly confirm a revised budget as soon as it’s possible to do so.”
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