Funicular Viaduct Strengthening, Cairngorm

To reopen the UK’s highest railway, we’re delivering strengthening and refurbishment works to the 2km-long funicular which ascends the northern slope of Cairngorm.

The funicular, which has been closed since 2018, takes passengers from 635 to 1097 metres Above Ordnance Datum. Upon re-opening, it will attract visitors to the Cairngorm National Park by providing access for all to one of the UK’s highest mountains. 

Early collaboration shapes project delivery  

Procuring the works via the SCAPE Scotland Civil Engineering framework, our customer Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) gained early access to the skills and knowledge of Balfour Beatty and its supply chain partners. 

This early collaboration gave experts the opportunity to shape how works would be completed. This included local supply chain partner McGowan Environmental Engineering, whose early involvement informed how works would be completed on the lower sections of the project that are made up of deep peat. Their early input was critical to ensuring the sensitive environment is protected at all times and that the safety challenges of working on a remote mountain side are well managed.  

Protecting the local ecosystem 

From the outset, we have considered local wildlife and the ground water dependent ecosystem of the mountain when planning our works, taking measures including: 

  • Working closely with specialist advisors to make sure our operations do not affect the various species living in the area 
  • Putting measures in place to prevent any contamination of watercourses, and regularly monitoring the condition of the watercourses throughout our works  

Overcoming logistical challenges  

Delivering materials and equipment to our work locations on the mountain side presented a logistical challenge due to the steep, varied terrain and the requirement to minimise our impact on the local environment.  

To overcome this, materials and equipment for the works on the upper slopes are delivered by helicopter. This minimises the ground disturbance caused by setting down materials and equipment and removes the associated safety risks of transporting materials and equipment across rough ground conditions as well as the removing the requirement for a haul road to be constructed. 

Removing the need to create access for conventional excavators and minimising the risks presented by the ground conditions, we also used specialist spider excavators without tracks to operate on the steep slopes of the upper section of works.