Cairngorm funicular: UK’s highest railway set to reopen in 2023

 All aboard – Britain’s highest railway is set to reopen early next year.

The two-kilometre long Cairngorm funicular ascends the northern slopes of Cairn Gorm, a 1,200 metre tall mountain in Scotland which offers over 30km of ski runs

The railway shuttled skiers up the mountain for 17 years, until structural problems forced its closure in 2018.

However, it may reopen early next year, after the Scottish government spent £16 million (€18.3 million) on repairs.

According to the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) – the operator that owns the funicular – the train could be up and running for part of the 2022-23 snow season.

“A hugely complex programme of civil engineering works to strengthen the 2km viaduct began in November 2020 and is due to conclude in autumn 2022,” an HIE statement reads.

“A new funicular control system will also be installed, and this will be followed by a period of testing and certification before passengers are again welcomed on board.”

Repairs on the railway started in April 2021, but were delayed by materials shortages and blizzards.

How does the Cairngorm funicular work?

The Cairngorm is a ‘funicular railway’ – also known as an incline railway.

Conventional trains use steel wheels on steel tracks. This is efficient – but the lack of friction prevents them from gaining traction up steep hills.

Funiculars pull trains up steep gradients with a cable. The world funicular comes from the Latin ‘funiculus’, which loosely translates to ‘rope.’

Switzerland’s ‘Stoosbahn’ claims the title of steepest funicular in the world, ascending 744 metres over 1.7km of track.

It has a gradient of more than 47 degrees. A 90 degree gradient is a sheer drop.

As travellers become increasingly environmentally conscious, train journeys are surging in popularity. If you’re looking to get to Scotland for your ski trip, why not take the train and avoid the enormous emissions of flying.

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