Technically it wasn't approved until this morning when passed with no voting objections at the CNPA planning committee.
The final words on the subject came from Willie McKenna - "As a locally elected member for this area fo the CNP I find this is a very very wise decision you have made today."
Nothing could be much further from reality. Even before the funicular closed CairnGorm's market share of Scottish snowsports had reduced to a historical low. Indeed the strong correlation between being able to ski the Carpark Run to demand is a reflection of the level of snowsports customer dissatisfaction with the Funicular as a means of winter uplift.
Contrary to comments by Planning Officers at this morning's planning meeting, repairing the funicular completely prejudices the master planning process currently being undertaken. If the funicular is repaired, it locks in the Funicular and locks in the present ski area structure of a Cas centric ski area dependent on road access to Coire Cas. It also locks up significant public capital expenditure which could be used to significantly re-imagine CairnGorm with better snowsports facilities and much less intrusive and better maintained built environment.
The Funicular is dysfunctional in winter, none of it's inefficiencies and high costs will be addressed, indeed the operating costs are only likely to be going in one direction (up), thus undermining the viability of the operator and therefore further threatening the sustainability of snowsports on CairnGorm Mountain.
David Hayes - Landmark Forest Adventure Park in the Guardian on Wed 28th April 1999:
With hindsight it is difficult not to concur with David Hayes statement because:
CairnGorm Mountain Limited accumulated £2.753 million of losses during the period the Funicular and the current Ptarmigan Restaurant were both in full operation.
CairnGorm Mountainís operator was twice taken into public ownership by HIE in 2008 (to stave off a formal insolvency) and again in 2018 (after entering administration).
The case to repair the Funicular is very weak, the case against repairing it strong and wide ranging. The National Park authority notes that between 2009 and 2016 visits to the Park increased 13.4%, while over the same period funicular usage declined 3%.
It is clear that funicular railway is not the economic success and importance that HIE proclaim in support of the planning application, rather the funicular has been a financial millstone around the neck of CML that has directly contributed to the run down and derelict nature of the built environment on CairnGorm and the related loss of uplift capacity and extent.
THE SE Group reports admit that in reality the Funicular falls far short of theoretical capacity, at best matching the Chairlifts it replaced and falling far below that of modern chairlifts.
The issue of snow burial and tunnel mouth problems mean the Funicular loses more days of operation than either the Nevis Gondola or the Glencoe Access Chair in February, the most key commercial month given half term. Further the staff resources tied up in getting the Funicular operational increases costs, lowers income and diverts staffing resources away from preparing and opening other uplift and terrain - all to the detriment of the snowsports experience.
Perhaps most importantly, fixing the funicular viaduct along with associated upgrades to control / running gear and rolling stock, plus HIE proposed Ptarmigan redevelopment will consume at least £14.5m of public funds.
Instead of using that capital investment to restore a failed and economically unviable status quo, it should be used for other projects both on CairnGorm and indeed the other areas - where significant economic and customer experience benefits could be achieved. Removal of the Funicular viaduct could then be incremental, beginning with the most highly visual intrusive higher reaches.
That is perhaps all the more imperative in the economic aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, that public investment generates real benefits and return on investments.
Edited 3 times. Last edit at 11.18hrs Fri 22 May 20 by winterhighland.