The Cairngorm Funicular Railway is an ugly scar on the mountain that should never have been built. Now the business case for its construction has been condemned by the Public Accounts Committee of the Scottish Parliament in a report called Review of the Cairngorm funicular railway. The findings of the committee are damning and basically say that Highlands and Islands Enterprise funded the construction with public money without bothering to properly assess the business case for the funicular. This meant, says the committee, that “the project was pushed forward without proper regard to the risk to the public purse.” The committee also says that HIE was determined “to proceed with the project at any cost”. This comes as no surprise to those of us who opposed the construction of the funicular as it was apparent then that there was little chance of it being profitable but that HIE wanted to expand the ski resort and, smarting from losing two public enquiries about plans to expand into Lurchers Gully, was determined to defeat conservationists . Private business thought so too and not a single penny of private investment could be raised. This was wise as the funicular has operated at a loss since it opened in 2001. The total of public money spent on this white elephant is now £26.75 million. And HIE want more, leading the committee to say it is “concerned that, given the history of loss-making by the business, HIE’s commitment to the project appears to be open-ended”. The committee demands that HIE produce a new business plan that “must be founded on a realistic assessment of the future viability of the facility”. HIE’s plan is to spend another £4 million of public money to maintain the funicular and bring it up to a standard where it can be sold to a private operator, if anyone mad enough to take it on can be found. And how come after all that money has already been spent that more has to be spent in the vain hope it can eventually be sold? The whole episode stinks. Building the funicular resulted in massive damage to the mountain, as anyone who observed the construction, as I did, knows, and we now have a useless eyesore that is losing money. The funicular should have no further public funds and should be removed and the land restored as far as possible. It is both an environmental and financial disaster.
Ironically, the funicular is currently buried under deep snow and so out of action at a time when the Cairngorms has the best snow cover for many years.
Photo info: The Cairngorm Funicular. Canon EOS 350D, 55-250@250mm, 1/1250@ f8, ISO 200, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.6