Friday, February 22, 2013

Conservationists hope to turn a disused Paris railway line into a nature trail

The visit starts on an icy January morning, overlooking Cours de Vincennes in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. The rails are coated in frost. We step gingerly out onto the iron bridge that spans the busy traffic, then enter an area that has run wild. The noise of the city is suddenly dulled. We are exploring the Petite Ceinture (which translates as "little belt"), a 32km circular rail link round Paris – part elevated, part in cuttings or underground – inside the Périphérique ring road.

Buildings rise on either side of the old railway, but sufficiently far away to give a real sense of space. The track runs through an abandoned station, covered in colourful graffiti. Beyond the vegetation we glimpse blocks of flats with spacious balconies, conjuring up an odd impression of having slipped behind the scenery.

So what should Paris do with this secret hideaway? Leave it to run wild, or turn it into a park? The city council has launched a consultation process involving residents and neighbourhood groups, the aim being to take a decision at the end of the year. The topic has stirred a lively response: train enthusiasts are keen to reinstate the service; nature enthusiasts want to turn the track into a wildlife reserve; and sport lovers sees the route as a gift for exercising.

More at the Guardian website

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