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Cairngorm Funicular to be Repaired

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Haggis_Trap wrote:
ster wrote:

If it was the SNP SG that DIRECTED the HIE acts/projects since 2007 then just own it.


Uhhm : Cairngorm was operated by a private company (CML followed by Natural Retreats) until HIE stepped in as public owner of last resort in 2018. Shortly after the structural issues with the funicular concerete became public. However it is clear you know very little about the funicular, it's history, nor the structure of HIE. Rather you came here to gleefully point score about the SNP

Quote:
I'm looking forward to when you get around to explaining who was responsible for the CalMac Ferry scandal, the illuminati, the masons?


Start a new topic and I will happily give you my positive experience of Cal Mac ferrys. 97.2% of routes on time this week (see below) : though you won't read that on BBC when there are local elections tomorrow Cool

Out of interest, when did you last sail with them?

https://www.calmac.co.uk/article/6280/Information-on-Performance-Monitoring


You do realise that is 'example' data??? Toofy Grin (author one G. Potemkin, I believe)

Read the real stuff then weep:

https://www.calmac.co.uk/media/1439/Ardrossan---Brodick/pdf/ARD-BRO_Mar-2022.pdf

https://www.calmac.co.uk/corporate/route-performance
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
DidierCouch wrote:

Read the real stuff then weep:


Summary table here Cool
Close to 100% reliability for much of the last month.
https://www.calmac.co.uk/calmac-performance-data-browser

Out of interest : when did you last sail Cal Mac ?
Every time I do it is excellent. The equivalent road tarrif has been a game changer for the islands...
Please do start another topic if you wish to discuss Cal-Mac (which I happily will - but not on here).
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@Haggis_Trap, sorry I thoguht you would have known what I was referring to, but this might not have made it past your filters. wink

I was referring to this debacle:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-61306935

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-49042833

Hard to get great reliability when the ferries still havent been finished!

Contract given to the highest bidder. Late, massively overbudget and no refund guarantee. Anyone wanting to claim the credit for this deal?


Last edited by Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see? on Thu 5-05-22 13:16; edited 1 time in total
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^ kindly start a new Cal Mac topic and I will happily engage. derailing this one with off topic political agenda is bad form.
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Quote:

Please do start another topic if you wish to discuss Cal-Mac


+1

please................
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GreenDay wrote:
Quote:

Please do start another topic if you wish to discuss Cal-Mac


+1

please................


No need really, its a pretty straighforward bit of ham-fisted pork-barrel politics (oh, two porky references!). Its all there to read so happy to leave it there. wink
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
ster wrote:

No need really, its a pretty straighforward bit of ham-fisted pork-barrel politics (oh, two porky references!). Its all there to read so happy to leave it there. wink


@ster : lets try to stay on topic (Cairngorm funicular).

Remember that :
a) The funicular was constructed in 2001 (6 years prior to SNP government being first elected). The concrete pilar issues didn't become apparent until ~2018.
b) HIE took public ownership of Cairngorm in late 2018 after the previous private operators (CML and then Natural Retreats) were both liquidated.
c) In 2017 the opposition parties voted to ensured that HIE maintained its own board specifically independent of Holyrood

With that in mind what action should the Scottish government take now given the circumstances?
i) close the funicular for good.
ii) allow HIE to repair the funicular but using their existing allocated annual budget.
iii) allow the funicular to be repaired but provide additional funds to HIE.

clearly it is a complex issue given the role Cairngorm plays in local economy and funds allocated to date.
for now 'ii' seems to be Strugeons preferred option.
while option 'iii' is what the opposition parties (Edward Mountain of the Conservatives) advocate in the article below.

Personally I am all for a full government inquiry into how HIE have got into such a mess.
Susan Smith, Charlotte Wright (of HIE) and David Gorton (of Natural retreats) have a lot of questions to answer.

Sturgeon challenged over repairs bill that led to officials considering Cairngorm mountain resort closure
THE FIRST Minister has been urged to “think again” over a decision not to agree further funding to the beleaguered Cairngorm mountain resort
https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/homenews/20114627.sturgeon-challenged-repairs-bill-led-officials-considering-cairngorm-mountain-resort-closure/?fbclid=IwAR08VfYCfMM9m5EsyWPD65CrmLU3eaof53CuWoUslqMd36_driGHL4rx66c
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[quote="Haggis_Trap"]
ster wrote:


Remember that :
a) The funicular was constructed in 2001 (6 years prior to SNP government being first elected). The concrete pilar issues didn't become apparent until ~2018.
b) HIE took public ownership of Cairngorm in late 2018 after the previous private operators (CML and then Natural Retreats) were both liquidated.
c) In 2017 the opposition parties voted to ensured that HIE maintained its own board specifically independent of Holyrood


A couple of pedantic points, but construction work commenced in spring 1998 - before devolution never mind before the first term of the SNP Scottish Government. HIE took CML into public ownership in May 2008 to stave off a formal insolvency, 'leased' the shareholding to Natural Assets Investments Limited (NAIL) in July 2014, only to have to rescue CML from formal administration in just over 10 years on from the previous nationalisation!

Why was there no traditional tender process for returning CML to the private sector, why was the base criteria for eligibility set to exclude the community, exclude a newly formed local consortium of businesses and exclude the community interest company running the snowsports school on CairnGorm by setting a 3 year turnover threshold just above the snowsports schools turnover then barring its bid? What or who dissuaded Nevis Range from continuing its bid? Lots of questions even in that relatively short period for a Public Inquiry, let alone what went on before and after. Given everything that is now known, a competitive dialogue tendering process looks like a sure fire way to go when the the outcome of the tender process was predetermined before it every begun. rolling eyes
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^ Fully agree (& thanks for filling in the fine details) : the cosy relationship between HIE and Natural Retreats should be certainly investigated. As does decision to deliberately remove ciste chairs when funicular concrete issues became known.

Though as I see it the funicular was always doomed to financial failure no matter who was in charge. The VMP prevents repeat custom for x8 months of the year. Wrong lift in the wrong place. Providing further funding simply repeating previous mistakes
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Haggis_Trap wrote:
^ Fully agree (& thanks for filling in the fine details) : the cosy relationship between HIE and Natural Retreats should be certainly investigated. As does decision to deliberately remove ciste chairs when funicular concrete issues became known.

Though as I see it the funicular was always doomed to financial failure no matter who was in charge. The VMP prevents repeat custom for x8 months of the year. Wrong lift in the wrong place. Providing further funding simply repeating previous mistakes


^To be honest I think the level of financial basketery is so bad that the Visitor Management Plan / Section 50 agreement is probably not that significant. It is absolutely the wrong lift, in the wrong place, for the wrong reasons.

Quite unbelievably none of the millions getting spent now address even a single one of the operating inefficiencies or problems encountered over the Funicular's just under 17 years of actual operation. The SE Group report even admitted that the funicular struggles to attain HALF it's notional 1200 people per hour uplift capacity, which means it isn't actually shifting any more people than the detachable chairlift it replaced.

The SE Group Report Highlighted the major existing challenges:

* Unreliability of winter road access to Coire Cas.
* Periods of lack of snow - particularly lower elevation.
* Difficulty of snow clearing the funicular and tunnel - meaning it is often not available when demand is high.

In other words a Cas centric snowsports area based around the funicular and entirely dependent on road access to Coire Cas is unlikely to be viable. Then to fit with the HIE narrative, the SE Group recommended 'solutions' which didn't address any of these problems. See the video:


http://youtube.com/v/z4fypwKfLbY

A huge issue was made in the mid 90s about the high costs of operating the Cairngorm Chairlift and the weather unreliability, but the funicular probably shifted the operating costs by close to an order of magnitude. The funicular has proven to have it's own significant weather vulnerability, the fact snow drifts and drifts a lot on Cairn Gorm! In fact if you dig into the stats for February which with the half term is the really commercial make or break point of the season, despite the funiculars much touted wind tolerance, its operational reliability for the month of February is lower than either the Nevis Range gondola or the Glencoe Access Chairlift.
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^ entierly correct (Alan?). The funicular was always the wrong uplift for skiers. The real failure is that it's also, clearly, the wrong lift for summer.

That could have been tolerated if alternatives (Ciste chairs) had been maintained... Instead the finances show that the 8 winter months subsidy the summer : which is just lunacy.
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It’s a bleak outlook for Cairngorm. No chance of recouping the losses through winter or summer operations. A big bill waiting the eventual removal of all that concrete. Less and less reliable early season snow. A decline in demand for skiing after February. Touring will no doubt remain popular when the snow is there but that won’t pay the bills on the hill.

Is there an alternative that doesn’t require large amounts of spending? Could a community business or not for profit hybrid somehow manage part of the skiing assets separate from the funicular?
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I think Cairngorm is past the point of saving if I’m honest. Too much needs to be done to bring this once fantastic resort up to scratch with other Scottish destinations.

One potential lifeline could be if one of the big global ski companies were to show interest and invest a lot of money. Inadequate snow cover, poor uplift and accessibility issues could all be addressed with the right capital, and the only way I see a Cairngorm beyond the next 5 years is if one were to invest
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You know it makes sense.
Cairngorm will survive as loss making trainset plus top basin lifts and cafe.

The frustration is that had they got investment correct then something like a Glenmore gondola (as alternative to access road) would have generated year round revenue which would have justified investment in ski area
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Haggis_Trap wrote:

The frustration is that had they got investment correct then something like a Glenmore gondola (as alternative to access road) would have generated year round revenue which would have justified investment in ski area


Very true. So sad that what was once Scotland's premier ski area has been ruined by incompetence and/or corruption. Sad
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
ster wrote:
@Haggis_Trap, you can say all you like re what the SNP SG wanted to do about HIE, then did or didn't do, ultimately the HIE is still responsible to the SG, something on which you are silent. Is the HIE responsible to the SG or not?


Excellent blog article below on the funicular

What has gone wrong?
In my view the basic problem is that HIE is an unaccountable organisation which, since it assumed ownership of Cairn Gorm, has managed it without regard to the needs of skiers, the natural environment or the financial costs
..
The staff responsible, like Charlotte Wright and Susan Smith who were responsible for the Natural Retreats fiasco, get promoted instead of facing the consequences (Ms Wright became Chief Executive of HIE, while Ms Smith is now Chief Executive of Cairngorm Mountain Scotland Ltd).

http://parkswatchscotland.co.uk/2022/05/10/the-cairngorm-funicular-financial-disaster-and-its-implications/


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Thu 12-05-22 13:49; edited 1 time in total
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An interesting read:
http://parkswatchscotland.co.uk/2022/05/12/the-funicular-construction-health-and-safety-file-and-its-implications-2/
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Not a Cairngorm suggestion specifically but thinking about ways to make skiing more viable in Scotland. I think it’s probably true to say that snow making doesn’t work well in our climate. Unfortunately its just too mild, too windy and too damp to make snow reliably.

So how then to maximise skier days and support the viability of real snow skiing in a changing climate?

I think the ball is essentially in the customers court. We need to make more use of the facilities we have and we need to ski later, particularly after March when conditions in Scotland are often at their best but skiers turn to less exciting pastimes. We need to promote all that fun they are missing out on!

One thing that might help ski centre viability is to make better use of thin snow days at the start of the season. In November, December and January when skier enthusiasm is at its peak the centres struggle to open lifts because of a lack of deep enough snow cover, poor weather or lack of staff. At Glencoe the new triple chair might just make early season skiing more viable than it was.

It may be possible for example to create and mark out a run from the top of the new chair to the bottom that is completely free of stones and that is smooth enough to ski on only a few inches of new snow. This isn’t possible further up the hill where the deep rocky gullies require blizzards from different directions to fill them in before the tows can run. This is normally after New Year and sometimes well into February.

If a smooth grassy route could be created across the plateau (even mowing it ‘Pennine style’!) that might enable the new chair to run in the pre season, immediately following a new snowfall. It might not matter that the thin snow would be ‘skied out’ by the end of the day. Keen Scottish skiers and snowboarders May be prepared to travel a couple of hours for a day of early season sport.

The new chairlift is long enough to offer a gentle run of over 800m in length (half a mile). That could be attractive enough to tempt skiers up from the central belt for a day out in the hills.

Snowboarders in particular may be keen on having a seat rather than having to use a drag lift. Snowboards also tend to
cope better on thin grassy snow and generally have more options to seek out the tougher conditions away from the shorter grass.

If thin snow days were viable at the start of the season it might improve revenue and extend participation at a time of the year that is more convenient for some customers.

Staffing is likely to be an issue but if the chair can be operated by just a few people then it may be worthwhile financially.

On a general note the new chair should more than double uplift capacity across the plateau and probably reduce queues for the cliffy, wall tbar and Poma on the busy days Laughing
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@Peter S, I can hear the wailing already at the thought of destroying a unique upland habitat to scour an ugly 30 metre wide path down the hill and then plant it with an invasive monoculture which struggles to survive above the treeline, and which will cause untold damage due to excessive water run-off leading to severe erosion further down.

And that's before the likelihood of the wind removing all of the snow from it within minutes of it falling.
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@Peter S, The Lecht had a dryslope next to the main chairlift, don't know if it is still there. The dendix was just laid on top of the heather though so wasn't flat and would sag as you skied over it. Probably easier to do this properly than to get a smooth grass slope.
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I agree that snowmaking is problematic in Scotland. However, it does appear to work reasonably well on the Plastic Slope (which isn't actually plastic) at Glenshee. The slope is in a gully which helps reduce melting / wind damage, has a drag lift running up the side of the slope, and the drier eastern climate helps. I think Glenshee more or less managed to keep that run open for the entire season.

The artificial areas at the other ski centres aren't in quite such ideal locations.

Cairngorm has their artificial nursery area, but it's a bit more exposed and they only seem able to keep a smaller area open as a result. I reckon they could have a good go at maintaining a bigger area along the Cas tow, but it's halfway up the mountain with no way to get there in poor snow conditions.

Glencoe use their artificial snowmaking to keep a sledging slope open, which seems financially savvy to me. Doesn't need to be as long as a ski slope.

As for mowing the grass - the plateau at Glencoe is covered with environmentally sensitive peat hags, and creating a smooth route could be quite damaging.
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The problem is how to increase the number of skiable days at the Scottish centres.

The conventional approach is to increase the depth of snow on selected runs. An alternative approach might be to slightly lower the depth of the surface !

We know that keen skiers will travel to the Pennines to ski on thin snow where the grass has been cut shorter. Might that work for a run or two at the Scottish ski centres ?


One suggestion is to identify and then way-mark the smoothest available run below the new plateau chair at Glencoe and manage it as a rock free, thin-snow ski route. Would that make any difference to the number of possible ski days during the early season?

I’m trying to think of simple projects that might tip the balance in marginal conditions. I’m not suggesting any earth moving, drainage or re-planting that would be expensive or might raise objection.
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@Peter S, the problem is that the Scottish ski centres sit on terrain like this:

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ousekjarr wrote:
@Peter S, the problem is that the Scottish ski centres sit on terrain like this:


True - though while they need depth to get going the deep rocky gullies at Glencoe are what holds the snow into late spring

Peter S wrote:
The problem is how to increase the number of skiable days at the Scottish centres.


The plateau and access runs are actually already strimmed at Glencoe as you suggest.

Though as I see it the trick for the ski areas is to focus on sustainable repeat summer trade (8 months of the year).
Ski areas can then take advantage of the skiing when conditions of good snow & weather arrive.
While being economically viable and able to keep on staff year round.

The funicular was meant to provide this at Cairngorm - but has been spectacular failure.
Basically the winter income is subsiding the summer!


Last edited by You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net. on Mon 23-05-22 9:47; edited 1 time in total
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The terrain may be a problem. The mess in the photo is unacceptable
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The ‘mess’ in the photo is actually a bit of skiing archaeology Laughing I think it may be part of the remains of Glencoe’s first lift from the 1950s. Perhaps it should have been preserved in situ as part of our cultural heritage rather than removed Laughing
Picture of the original Glencoe Ski tow gulley lift here http://www.helensburgh-heritage.co.uk/index.php/heritage/business/1360-call-for-honour-for-ski-pioneer

Below the rainbow you can see the plateau which comprises typical upland blanket bog with thicker grasses than the rocky runs of the upper hill. Parts of the plateau are largely rock free and come into skiable condition well before the upper hill which, as HT explains above, is why the snow persists for so long at GC.

The new chair crosses the right of the plateau and that is where there may now be early season opportunity with just thin cover. I guess we’ll find out whether that is possible or not later this year.
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Peter S wrote:
The ‘mess’ in the photo is actually a bit of skiing archaeology


The mess in the foreground of that photo is indeed parts or the original Main Basin lift, but as can be seen stuff has been gathered together and put in airlift bags. A lot of very old junk dating back from when Glencoe was club run was gathered to various sports and airlifted off the hill in summer 2014 - suspect that photo is from then.

On the issue of skiing on the Plateau with a few inches of snow, it is rare that a few inches of snow falls with no wind and thus it doesn’t take that many inches of snow to make some of the Plateau skiable. Rankins Return pretty much fits PeterS’ suggestion naturally and the Plateau area is usually the first to open at Glencoe.

A stark difference between CairnGorm and Glenshee with use of snowmaking the past couple of seasons is that CairnGorm made snow where it was convenient, Glenshee made snow where it was sensible! Gully storage of drifted snow is a big factor in Scottish snow lie, see the Escalator on Braeriach as a prime example.

Drifting concentrates the natural precipitation into fewer places, in essence snowmaking does likewise and it makes sense to seek to use it where ablation can be minimised. Something that is often overlooked regards snowmaking is the potential to substantially increase the proportion of natural snowfall that accumulates, as opposed to melting on impact with warm / wet ground. Thus you can have a situation where most of the snow on a run is natural, but there would be no snow there at all without the snow making!
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To bring the topic back on subject, HIE representative at the Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust AGM on Monday evening confirmed that the Funicular will cost significantly more to maintain in the future with the repair supports in place, than was the case in the past. The Funicular wasn’t viable or economically sustainable before it closed in autumn 2018. rolling eyes
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@haggishunter, so the funicular will continue to be a financial white elephant requiring annual subsidy. rolling eyes Bearing in mind the £millions splurged by HIE on building the damn thing in the first place and now repairing it one can only dream about what skiing infrastructure could be in place now if the money had been spent more sensibly (including on the Ciste side). Sad
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So blue sky, why not stop the haemorrhaging of cash just shutter the funicular. Remove all the parts that can be easily & cheaply removed (even sold off?) and leave the rest in-situ as testiment to the hubris of HIE that won't be forgotten.

Then go after everyone involved in creating this train wreck and wring out all the financial compensation that can be gotten. Use these funds to give it a chance by reopening/building ski uplifts in the right places or other needed infrastructure, then run commercially if possible without public funds.

And if after all this , it still can't wash its face then close it.
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Quote:
I can hear the wailing already at the thought of destroying a unique upland habitat to scour an ugly 30 metre wide path down the hill
Was there much wailing over the five metre-wide track that was bulldozed into the mountain so that they could build the new chairlift? It's amazing how the environmental issues around piste creation can be overcome in the Alps etc. Some of those really are levelling on a huge scale when you see the pistes in summer - eg Espace Killy, 3 Vallees.

Regardless, the top section of the new Glencoe track (running the length of the Plateau) is practically smooth and could be a goer (as per Peter S's suggestion) re early season snowsports - particularly if they use the Snow Factory.
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For those those wintersports enthusiasts (not to mention the taxpayers who are funding this fiasco) who are keen to follow progress on the funicular repairs, Winterhighlands Facebook page just posted this:

Today HIE released a board paper providing an update on the Cairngorm Mountain Funicular.





































Edit: Although on reflection I'm not sure whether this is genuine, or a Winterhighlands spoof post? Given HIE's track record it's hard to tell..... Madeye-Smiley


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Wed 8-06-22 14:33; edited 2 times in total
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Alastair Pink wrote:

Today HIE released a board paper providing an update on the Cairngorm Mountain Funicular.


HIE remain sadly unaccountable to central government nor the public Shocked


Last edited by Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see? on Thu 9-06-22 6:26; edited 1 time in total
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Surely they realise that they are taking the
p*$$?

It just beggars belief...
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I saw it on FB and it really must be a spoof.
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@GreenDay, yes, that's what I concluded, but as I said given HIE's track record it's hard to tell, they've released heavily redacted reports previously. Laughing
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I reckon it is genuine, but it probably comes from a longer report with other pages that aren't as heavily censored.

It is hard to tell though! Laughing Crying or Very sad
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denfinella wrote:
I reckon it is genuine, but it probably comes from a longer report with other pages that aren't as heavily censored.

It is hard to tell though! Laughing Crying or Very sad


Yes that's what Winterhighland have now clarified on Facebook. So it is a genuine page from a longer HIE report as you surmised. Shocked
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Original doc here :

Summary : it wont be ready this winter and they have run out of money...

As a result of unprecedented circumstances and unforeseen challenges, it is now clear
that completion of the funicular reinstatement works will not be achieved in winter 2021/22 –
careful external messaging of this is essential and will be taken forward immediately after the
Board meeting. It is also now confirmed that a cost increase on the funicular reinstatement
project will exceed the approved budget for reinstatement works professional fees and optimism
bias allowance within the Cairngorm FBC


http://www.winterhighland.info/cairngorm/20210824-HIE-Board.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3JBROGopk_ca44FJbQ_pq9_tK5_IFjmHc56HK4MRfKBE6M12G0F2BFPpY
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Haggis_Trap wrote:
, from the HIE document -
"careful external messaging of this is essential...."


I'll bet, aka "spin". Laughing
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