BUSINESSES in Aviemore fear they could be about to go under after the discovery of massive cracks in one of the concrete beams used to hold up the CairnGorm Mountain Funicular Railway.

With the winter skiing season about to start, the fractured pillar has forced operators to make the trains twice as slow and half full.

But that’s only when it’s running – the train has to come to a complete stop if it’s too windy, too snowy or too cold.

Exasperated businesses are furious at what is just the latest in a long line of disasters associated with the 17-year-old, £20m publicly funded railway.

Speaking on Friday, Alan Brattey, the secretary of the Aviemore Business Association, told The National that the funicular hadn’t been open for the last two weeks: “It’s not open today. It’s not windy up here today. In fact it’s a nice day, but it’s closed. It looks as if it is pretty much closed down until they make the repairs whatever the repairs are.”

He said the problems have already been a “disaster” for his members and their staff.

“There’s a ski-hire business in Aviemore that has to decide within the next fortnight whether to sign another five year lease in their premises. Unless they have confidence that [the funicular] going to operate then that business will fold.”

Brattey said snowsport enthusiasts and tourists were already cancelling plans and looking elsewhere. The railway and the ski-resort is run by CairnGorm Mountain Ltd which is operated by Natural Retreats. Highland Island Enterprise own the 3500 acre estate.

T-bars and chairlifts that operated on the hillside have been closed by the company, who have reduced uplift capacity by over 40% , businesses say.

Jansson, CairnGorm Mountain general manager apologised and encouraged tourists and skiers to look on their website and social media channels for daily updates.

“We have a team of specialist engineers currently undertaking detailed inspections and monitoring on the funicular railway at CairnGorm Mountain, which will inform any remedial action that may be required.

“In the meantime, we continue to follow the advice to restrict the parameters of our normal operating procedures. This means that we are closely monitoring the weather”.