The Cairngorm Mountain Railway is to reopen on Thursday for the first time since 2018 following extensive structural repairs. 

Snowsports enthusiasts can look forward to a regular service taking them to the top of the slopes in five minutes, Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd (CMSL) has announced. 

The UK's highest railway was initially meant to open in early 2022 but faced delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic, extreme weather and material shortages. 

Near the end of last year, the Herald reported that costs of the crucial repairs have spiralled from the original estimates of £14.8 million. 

But the country's only funicular has now been given the all-clear to kick off the 2023 snowsports season at the ski centre above Aviemore after receiving safety certificates from the UK UK Department of Transport.

CMSL chief executive Susan Smith said the improvements have seen "major changes to the visitor experience" and believes that 2023 will prove to be a "landmark year".

HeraldScotland: Susan SmithSusan Smith (Image: CMSL)

It required work to strengthen the viaduct and install a new control system. The re-opening comes after rigorous quality and safety testing.

The return of the two-kilometre-long funicular comes alongside other improvement works including new ‘magic carpet’ conveyor belts for the beginner slopes, car park improvements and the refurbishment of the Ptarmigan building.

Located at the very top of the mountain railway, at 1065 metres, the newly designed restaurant also offers an immersive exhibition space and viewing platform.

Ms Smith said: "The Cairngorm Mountain team is thrilled to be welcoming snowsports enthusiasts onto the funicular railway once more.

"The improvements across the resort have brought major changes to the visitor experience and we are so pleased to see the railway transport people to the upper slopes as well as our refurbished Ptarmigan building.

"Weather permitting and with the hope that our capacity will expand further as the season continues, 2023 promises to be a landmark year for our business, team and local community.”

READ MORE: Officials considered Cairngorm mountain resort closure as repairs bill soars

The railway will make the resort accessible to visitors throughout the year, not only during the peak snowsports season.

The resort is owned by the Scottish Government's Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) agency. 

Dave Macleod, head of property and infrastructure with HIE, said: “It’s wonderful to see the mountain railway back in action again. This will make a huge improvement to the customer experience at Cairngorm and strengthen the appeal of the wider area to attract visitors throughout the year.

“Reinstating the funicular has been uniquely challenging, not only in engineering terms, but also for the care that had to be taken to protect the environment during these works while also contending with some of the most severe and changeable weather that Scotland has to offer.

“Cairngorm plays an important role in the local economy as an environmental, educational and sporting asset and the funicular will enable people across a huge range of ages and abilities to enjoy the mountain not only in winter, but every season.”