Yes, we know it has been a good winter for skiing and that the skiing venues have done well. Our long standing concerns of the funicular being the wrong development in the wrong place remain however. On 4th March 2010 the Press &Journal carried an article outlining how a Scottish Parliament committee severely criticised the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) for its handling of the Cairngorm mountain railway project. This criticism gave reference to HIE's failure to take account of spiralling costs and gave detail of confidentialityclauses that enabled the true figures to be withheld even though HIE was using public money to take over the Railway. NEMT has further concerns as outlined in this letter to The Strathy.
I am most concerned to see that the Aviemore & Vicinity Community Council are pressing to see access to the Cairngorm plateau opened up via the Funicular Railway. The current "closed system" whereby people can walk up onto the plateau, but not walk out onto it after riding up on the train, was arrived at as a hard-fought compromise between conservationists and the developers. What is undeniable is that the plateau itself is very fragile. It is at an altitude where the growing season is very short. Once vegetation is damaged, it will only regrow over a period of many, many years. During this time, the fragile soils will erode, in some places, catastrophically. Even with the current limited traffic, there are many places showing the unsightly consequences of excessive soil erosion. Opening up the current closed system will lead to further unacceptable erosion.
Do people really believe that this step will somehow magically put the financial disaster right? How many additional visitors will be needed to significantly impact the local economy? A small number will do untold damage on the plateau. Survey after survey shows that our pristine environment is Scotland's biggest tourist attraction. Maintaining this will bring people into the area not the prospect of enhanced train rides.
Secondly, the conditions for securing European funding were conditional on establishing the closed system. Technically, if the closed system is scrapped, the money would have to be repaid. Surely, there has beeh enough money spent on the funicular without having to spend more money fighting a potential European repayment?
(North East Mountain Trust)
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