THE world famous funicular railway in Scotland’s Cairngorms national park will remain closed over the winter - despite a pledge of £20 million of public cash to get it open.

While the work to strengthen the 1.9km viaduct that supports the railway track had been scheduled to finish early in 2022, that has now been pushed back to the second half of next year.

The news was announced by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) on Wednesday afternoon.

HIE said that the decision had been made “despite strong progress made in tough conditions” on the renovations to date.

The organisation also said that several factors had combined to delay the project. These include “technical challenges associated with designing and implementing effective solutions to an existing structure”.

READ MORE: Aviemore and Glenmore don’t need a £20m funicular train to attract visitors

In addition, progress has been hampered by Covid impacts and by extreme weather, particularly blizzard conditions in the spring.

HIE also said “extra effort” has been required to source construction materials as a result of shortages currently affecting the UK.

HIE interim chief executive Carroll Buxton said this combination of challenges had made rescheduling the works inevitable.

“Cairngorm Mountain Estate is a great visitor attraction that plays an important role in the local economy,” she said.

The National: The Cairngorm mountains in the Highlands (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“The funicular has been a key element of what draws people to Cairngorm and it will be again, once these works are completed.

“We’ve always been upfront in describing the reinstatement programme as one of the most complex and difficult civil engineering projects in Scotland.

“As well as managing technical challenges, the team has to take great care to protect the mountain environment, and deal with difficult terrain and extreme weather conditions that can quickly become hazardous.

“The original schedule was very ambitious, even without the impacts of the pandemic lasting as long as they have and before the more recent problems in sourcing construction materials of suitable quality.

“With limited time available to complete these works before winter, postponement has become inevitable.”

The funicular opened in 2001 but was taken out of service in 2018 after an engineers’ inspection identified structural defects that raised safety concerns.

READ MORE: Masterplan for publicly owned Cairngorm Estate published by HIE

More detailed inspection and design work followed before the decision to reinstate the funicular was announced last October by the Scottish Government, as part of a £20.5m business case that includes other priority investments to strengthen Cairngorm Mountain’s year-round appeal.

The business case assessed alternatives to reinstatement before reaching its conclusions, including removing the structure, and replacing it with alternative uplift.

“We’re now working with our designers and contractors on a revised schedule for the remainder of the project,” Buxton added.

“Harsh mountain conditions mean that all work will need to halt over winter and resume next spring. To ensure safety, there also needs to be a period of testing and certification at the end of the programme, so our current expectation is that the funicular can be relaunched in autumn 2022.

“Clearly, a longer timescale will also have a financial impact. We’ll be reviewing costs very carefully and will publicly confirm a revised budget as soon as it’s possible to do so.”