Cairngorm railway is finally open after 50 years

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The Independent Online

The Cairngorm funicular railway will open to the public today, nearly 50 years after it was first conceived and many battles and disputes later.

The Cairngorm funicular railway will open to the public today, nearly 50 years after it was first conceived and many battles and disputes later.

Described by opponents as an "unbelievable act of environmental destruction" and by supporters as the "best Christmas present ever for the Highlands of Scotland", the £15m scheme will take only seven minutes to ferry more than 1,000 passengers to the 4,084ft (1,245m) summit of Britain's fourth-highest mountain range.

The railway was first dreamt of in the Fifties, but it was not until 1961 that a chairlift was built. Construction of the railway began in March 1999 and the chairlift was decommissioned in April last year.

But this afternoon, with snow already covering the mountain range, the purple carriages will begin winding their way two kilometres skywards, carrying the first of what should be 165,000 fee-paying passengers a year.

The operators of Britain's first high-speed funicular railway, CairnGorm Mountain, predict that it will lead to more jobs and an influx of desperately needed tourists, but protesters fear it will hasten the destruction of the Cairngorms National Nature Reserve.

Environmentalists, including the World Wildlife Fund, fought a campaign to halt the project because of fears that the rugged snow-capped peaks of the Cairngorms, which make up the highest area of land mass above 3,000ft in the British isles and are home to some of its rarest plants, would be damaged.

Bob Kinnaird, the chief executive of the railway, said that efforts were being made to ensure the railway would help preserve the environment.

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