Delays and cost increases have hit the rail job in the Balfour Highlands

The Scottish Government’s Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) agency has confirmed that the Cairngorm cable car will not reopen until “the second half of 2022”.

The lift in the ski area should be reopened at the beginning of next year after reinforcement work on the 1.9 km long viaduct that supports the route.

Balfour started work in April 2021 but there were delays due to “technical challenges related to developing and implementing effective solutions for an existing structure as opposed to a new build”.

Work has also been hindered by the effects of Covid and extreme weather conditions including a spring snow storm.

HI added that “additional efforts were required to source key building materials that are currently in short supply across the UK”.

Carroll Buxton, Interim CEO of HIE, said: “We have always described the reintegration program as one of the most complex and difficult civil engineering projects in Scotland.

“The team not only has to cope with technical challenges, but also has to protect the mountains and deal with difficult terrain and extreme weather conditions that can quickly become dangerous.

“The original schedule was very ambitious, even if the effects of the pandemic did not last as long and before the more recent problems of sourcing suitable quality building materials.

“With limited time to complete this work before winter, a postponement has become inevitable.”

The funicular was built by Morrison Construction and opened in 2001 but retired in 2018 after an engineering inspection found structural defects that raised safety concerns.

Buxton said, “We are now working with our designers and contractors on a revised schedule for the rest of the project.

“Harsh mountain conditions mean that all work has to be stopped over the winter and restarted next spring. In order to ensure safety, a test and certification phase must also take place at the end of the program, so we currently expect the funicular to be operational again in autumn 2022.

“A longer period of time will of course also have a financial impact. We will examine the costs very carefully and publicly confirm a revised budget as soon as possible. “

HIE has also approved up to £ 780,000 for a major renovation of the Ptarmigan building, which sits on the plateau and includes the UK’s tallest restaurant, shop, showrooms and observation decks.

Following a tender, the resort operator Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd (CMSL) has placed an order for the first phase of the Ptarmigan works with Simpson Builders Ltd, based in Beauly. The renovation is to begin at the end of August and be completed by the end of 2021.

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