Inside the UK’s highest railway that climbs 3,600ft up Scottish mountain

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IT’S been four years since the UK’s highest railway went up it’s Scottish mountain.

But now, the Cairngorm funicular is due to open today for the first time since September 2018.

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The railway is due to open again today after being closed in 2018.Credit: SWNS
The railway runs for two kilometres up Cairn Gorm.

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The railway runs for two kilometres up Cairn Gorm.Credit: PA:Press Association

The railway connects the base station to a restaurant and ski srea 3,599ft up munro Cairn Gorm opening in 2001.

Cairn Gorm is one of Scotland’s most well known munros at 4084ft looking over the Highland town of Aviemore.

But the railway, owned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, was forced to close due to structural problems and repair work was then halted due to the pandemic.

The Scottish Government gave £16million towards the £25million cost of repairs – but works were delayed due to the pandemic, a shortage of materials and bad weather.

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Ken Brown, working for engineering firm Balfour Beatty, told the BBC winds of 106mph in October made the process difficult as well as workers being swarmed by midges when it wasn’t windy.

This led to the cost rising and the funicular opening being delayed.

The project saw thousands of lifts from helicopters delivering 800 tonnes of concrete to the site according to the BBC.

Civil Engineers had to be careful not to cause damage to deep peat and boulders that were removed to allow access to the railway.

These were put back into place with their lichen-covered surfaces the correct way up.

Bearings and other components also had to be replaced.

Before reopening to the public the railway had to be tested and obtain a safety certificate from the Department of Transport.

Now, Susan Smith, chief executive of Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd, hopes it will be an important economic driver.

She told the BBC: “It employs local people and if Cairngorm is busy then hotels, restaurants, transports and shops are busy.

“It is an iconic hook to get people into the area.”

Dave Macleod, of HIE, said new investment was made to the Cairngorm Mountain resort including to the restaurant and car park.

He added they were working with other organisations on habitat restoration.

But not everyone is fond of the work to repair the railway.

In 2021, mountaineer and author Cameron McNeish said the railway should be “stripped” from the mountainside and the area should be allowed to go back into the wild.

He had initially opposed the plans for the funicular back in 2001 when it opened.

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But HIE said, in 2019, it would be cheaper to fix the railway than dismantle it.

At the time it was estimated repairs would cost £10million however the figure now is said to be £25million.

The munro is one of Scotland's most iconic summits.

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The munro is one of Scotland’s most iconic summits.Credit: Alamy

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