Cairngorm Mountain Railway
LECS UK has wrapped up another unique public transport system project – the highest railway in the UK and the only funicular railway in Scotland.
The Cairngorm Mountain Railway, originally opened in 2001, was taken out of service in 2018 due to structural and safety issues. A key feature of leading Scottish attraction Cairngorm Mountain resort, the railway had provided access to the plateau of Cairn Gorm for thousands of visitors, including snowsports enthusiasts, every year.
Working as the technical advisors to the Department of Transport LECS UK has been primarily responsible for approving the design and works to bring the railway back into service and also ensuring that these are compliant with the relevant regulations and standards.
The hugely complex programme of civil engineering works to strengthen the 2km viaduct began in November 2020. The funicular reinstatement project, estimated to cost in the region of £25 million and funded by the Scottish Government and Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE), has now strengthened key elements of the railway’s supporting structure, including foundations, piers and beams, as well as replacing hundreds of sliding bearings. In addition to this a new funicular control system has been installed, and following a period of testing and certification, passengers will be welcomed aboard in early 2023.
LECS UK’s ROLE
On the back of over 30+ years’ experience working on complex cable car, funicular and vertical transportation systems throughout the world, LECS UK was appointed as technical advisors to the UK’s Department for Transport.
Dave Cooper, CEO of LECS UK said: “As technical advisor LECS UK was responsible for approving the design and ensuring it was compliant with the Cableway Installation Regulations”.
“The Cableway Installations Regulations were first introduced in 2004 (after the railway was built) and updated in 2018. The regulations set out the requirements for authorisation and ensuring compliance with harmonised European Standards. LECS (UK) has the responsibility of advising the DfT on compliance at both stage 1 – permission to undertake modifications, and stage 2 -permission to enter revenue earning service, of the Regulations.
“The project had various technical challenges, not only from the engineering perspective, but also the high-altitude mountain environment, severe weather, COVID, as well as an enormous public expectation. The unique aspects of the project called for some innovative project planning, challenging logistics, and was a very satisfying project to be involved in. Before passengers are welcomed on board again, the service is put through rigorous quality and safety assessments, including certification with LECS UK undertaking rigorous witnessing of testing and commissioning to ensure compliance with the statutory requirements and European Standards to achieve a stage 2 sign off under the requirements of the Regulations.”
FACTS & STATS
The two-kilometre long funicular ascends the northern slopes of Cairn Gorm rising by 462 m (1,516 ft)., It is a Doppelmayr 120-SSB funicular railway, operating on a single track (with passing loop) at a maximum speed of 36 km/h (22mph) with three stations in total. Up to 100 standing passengers can be carried in each of the system’s two carriages.
The funicular railway operates by ‘hauling’ up one carriage using electric motors to pull the haul rope as the other carriage descends at the same time. The system is powered by two stationary in series 500 kW electric motors, a gear box and a ‘soft start-soft stop’ control system that can increase the electrical frequency and vary the current and voltage to control the carriage speeds as they approach or leave a station. A hydraulically operated compensating rope is connected to both carriages to maintain haul rope tension.
Depending on wind direction, wind speed trend and weather forecast, the trains can operate in winds up to 125 km/h (78 mph). As the train approaches the top station it enters a 250 m (820 ft) long cut-and-cover tunnel taking it up to the top platform hidden in the hillside.
Reinstating the funicular is a major element in a programme of investment to make Cairngorm Mountain a successful year-round attraction and a top destination in Scotland’s tourism sector. The mountain railway is expected to attract thousands of visitors a year, generating benefits for the wider economy in Badenoch and Strathspey, where the vital tourism and hospitality sectors were dealt a huge blow by COVID-19. Owned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the service will resume in early 2023.
Other similar type projects that LECS UK has consulted on include: London’s (only) Cable Car, Luton Dart, Hastings East Hill Funicular