In our Autumn edition we covered a Cairngorm Chairlift Company (CCC) letter to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) requesting relaxation of the funicular's "Closed System" before next winter's opening. NEMT wrote to Roger Crofts, SNH Chief Executive, stating "We considered CCC would agree to a closed system to ensure the project was commissioned and would then seek to have these conditions progressively removed. You can understand that our worst fears are already being realised at an astonishingly early stage in the programme."

NEMT took guarded comfort from Mr Crofts reply which concluded "I trust the above reassures you that the "Closed System", as previously envisages, will be included in the Visitor Management Plan (VMP) and that no changes to the final VMP will be approved which will adversely impact on the integrity of the European sites."

The funicular building has been on hold over the winter however there has been significant activity in the media plus attention from politicians. Perhaps the most visual was coverage BBC Weekend Watchdog broadcast in January. This highlighted the comparison with the Millennium Dome re. how the differences between forecasted and actual visitor numbers was the cause of the Dome's financial disaster. They then went on to do a spoof about visitors inside trying to get out of the restaurant onto the mountain plateau and walkers from outside banging on the windows trying to get into the restaurant for a seat and a hot coffee. This is of course, exactly what is going to happen.

The media covered the dreadful Austrian funicular disaster last November. This claimed over 150 lives when a fire broke out in the underground funicular tunnel. This once again brought the media attention to the planned tunnel for the Cairngorms funicular.

The Daily Express ran a series of articles that let the facts speak for themselves as their journalists had taken the time to look behind the scenes. The Scottish Sunday Papers have kept an eye on the situation with an interesting 3-page article in a recent Sunday Herald magazine. This advised us of the apparent complete indifference of the Scottish Executive towards the whole non-sustainability of the Scottish Skiing industry. We are also advised the climate experts are forecasting a significant reduction in average snowfall and snow cover duration over the next 60 years. This on-going reduction has already been apparent to everyone who looked out of their windows in these areas over the last 20 years. This article may have come out during the best skiing conditions for years but it is sustainability we are talking about here not lucky weather windows. We are also told of a massive marketing campaign HIE will be launching to promote the funicular - it will be interesting to watch how much more public money goes into financing that.

On the political scene our Environment Minister, Sam Galbraith, reminded those who needed to know that if the funicular fails financially it will be removed, with tax payers money of course. This was broadcast on Radio Scotland last December. On the planning side a New Visitor Management Plan (VMP) was also produced in December. This tells us, for example, that non-funicular users will not be charged, meantime, for using the Coire Cas car park. Dr Adam Watson has prepared a critique of the VMP.

Finally in true Windscale style the Cairngorm Chairlift Company has apparently changed its name to Cairngorm Mountain Company - they clearly have more than just transport on their minds …

Jennifer A Cook, April 2001

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