The Cairn Gorm funicular railwayThe Cairn Gorm mountain railway regularly breaches sewage discharge limits, has leaking buildings and trains which cannot be maintained properly, it is claimed.

The Cairn Gorm funicular railway
Photo: Zoe Grice

The Ramblers’ Association in Scotland has called for an inquiry into the resort, near Aviemore, after a Sunday newspaper obtained documents which accused Highlands and Islands Enterprise of trying to hide the true state of affairs.

The Sunday Herald received more than 1,000 documents after it made an application to the Forestry Commission under the Freedom of Information Act.

The memos, emails and reports paint a sorry picture of the state of the controversial CairnGorm Mountain resort and its funicular, which was opposed by many outdoor groups when it was first proposed.

The FC documents estimate it will take up to £2m of public money to bring buildings and equipment up to scratch. If the railway is shut, it would cost £6m to reinstate the land. The documents say a design fault causes sewage discharges in excess of safety limits. There is no machinery to lift the train from the tracks, which should be done every five years. A building housing an electrical transformer ‘leaks like a sieve’.

Hugh Insley, chief executive of Forest Enterprise Scotland, an agency of the FC, warned his negotiators they should have nothing to do with the running of CairnGorm Mountain.

CairnGorm Mountain Ltd, the company which ran the resort, suffered financial difficulties and HIE took control of the ski resort and funicular earlier this year. Although this winter proved a bumper season for skiing, with six months on the Cairn Gorm slopes, previous seasons have been hit hard by the paucity of good snow conditions as the climate changes.

Dave Morris, director of the RA in Scotland, said: "The exposure of these massive liabilities confirms our worst fears.

"This represents an incredible loss of public money on an environmentally damaging project. Lessons must be learned from this scandal.

"Ownership of the Cairn Gorm estate must be removed from HIE because it appears to have seriously misled the public and the parliament on the whole funding basis of the funicular railway."

The enterprise agency said: “HIE is now working on plans to ensure operations on the mountain continue to be an economic driver for the area while maintaining its sensitive environment.

"When these plans are in place, it is HIE's intention to attract a private operator for the funicular railway and to resume negotiations for the estate to move into alternative ownership."

The funicular railway was opened in 2001, despite strong opposition from environmentalists and other outdoor groups.

See also

Public body to take over Cairn Gorm railway company