The irony is inescapable: climate change has led to the closure of the emissions-free funicular that connects Bourg-St-Maurice to Les Arcs.

Powered by 100% renewable energy, the funicular means that it’s possible to travel by train the entire way from the UK to the resort of Les Arcs.

‘Significant deformation’ of the track

It’s a journey I took in December 2019, when I travelled to the resort to review their green credentials. Since then Les Arcs has been awarded the ‘Flocon Vert’ by the Mountain Riders organisation for their commitment to sustainability.

Unfortunately, the funicular has had to close due to ‘significant deformation’ of the track, requiring large-scale work which has now been scheduled over the next three years.

The 100% electric funicular from Bourg to Les Arcs

Rails expanded due to heat

According to the mairie in Bourg Saint Maurice, a rise in temperatures has caused an expansion of the rails, first observed in May 2020. Repair work started in the spring and was to continue in September, after the summer season.

However, after standard regulatory checks before the summer opening, showed the situation had worsened, the decision was made to close the funicular and complete the work before winter.

Although the area is setting up a shuttle service instead to transport holidaymakers from the valley to the mountain, it’s a major blow to tourism.

In the summer of 2019, the funicular carried 65000 passengers – double the previous year’s figure as the service was offered for free.

Bourg to Les Arcs funicular

The new Les Arcs funicular

Work will cost more than €10m

A spokesman for the town hall said:

“The phenomenon has not only reappeared recently, but it has worsened. The risk is that with any heatwave, our safety devices will automatically stop the funicular, forcing us to evacuate people.”

The work will cost more than €10 million, and includes the installation of more suitable rails, to allow expansion, as well as reinforcement of the pylons supporting the track.

Studies have shown that mountain temperatures are increasing faster than the global average, and that the speed that glaciers are melting has doubled in the last 20 years.