The investigation by engineers from Cowi was commissioned by Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE), which owns the facility, following safety concerns raised in a general inspection last autumn.
The Cowi engineers have concluded that the structure does not present an immediate danger to the public. However, the safety margin is lower than desirable and a series of measures should be put in place to address weaknesses before resumption of service, they said.
Cowi undertook the investigation between September and December last year, including excavating around foundations and carrying out intrusive investigations of the structure.
Work is required to strengthen the piers, beams and foundations as well as to install new bearings with higher load and movement capacity.
HIE is currently exploring the scope and cost of the works, and this is expected to take several weeks.
At the same time, HIE is commissioning an independent peer review of Cowi’s report, in line with industry best practice for complex investigations.
Work on the structure of the funicular can only be carried out during summer months when the mountain is more accessible to contractors. It will therefore remain out of service for the remainder of the current winter season and throughout the summer months and possibly longer. HIE subsidiary operating firm, Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Limited (CMSL), is starting to develop a range of alternative options to offer summer visitors.
Susan Smith, HIE’s head of business development, said: “We have considered carefully the implications of the investigation and concluded it will take considerable time to design, procure and complete the necessary works. Our goal is to have the funicular up and running as soon as is safe to do so, but in the meantime, we anticipate it will remain out of service throughout the summer months and possibly beyond. We will provide further updates as things progress.”
Ross Harris, interim chief executive of CMSL, added: “Cairngorm Mountain is an outstanding all year-round tourist attraction. The funicular is of course a unique feature of Cairngorm, but there is so much more to experience. We are working hard to ensure that we continue to provide the best experience possible for our snowsports customers who can access the mountain using our network of tows and we are confident we can build on an already attractive offering for our summer visitors.”