Old railway line to become new park in Singapore

Story highlights

  • Retired four years ago, Singapore's old Rail Corridor is getting a new life
  • Winning design for a new linear park stretching 24 kilometers across the city-state has been revealed
  • Eight themed stretches with 10 highlighted areas, or "nodes," are included in the plan

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(CNN)How do you make Asia's greenest city even greener? The answer, in Singapore, is to build a new park.

But not just any park.
At 24-kilometers, stretching almost the entire north-south length of the island's, this one's likely to be one of the region's -- if not the world's -- longest man-made recreational spaces.
    It's set to run along a disused railway line. Named the Rail Corridor, the former rail route once served trains heading across the border into Malaysia from the Tanjong Pagar Railway Terminal in the south of Singapore.
    The line was abandoned in 2011 when the terminus was relocated from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands in the north of the city.
    Now it's to be regenerated in the style of New York's successful High Line, a greened-over rail spur in Manhattan -- but 10 times longer.
    "This provides us with a unique opportunity to build a very special community space," says Tan See Nin, a planning director of Singapore's Urban Redevelopment Authority.
    The authority has held competitions and exhibitions for the past four years to develop the park's design.

    Winning design

    "Lines of Life" is the winning concept, created by Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei, together with local landscape firm Tierra Design.
    Nikken Sekkei spokesperson Shoji Kaneko tells CNN the new park will be a celebration of the park's huge geographical scope and of the diversity of Singapore's people and culture.
    The park, he adds, will be something that "stitches together the entire nation, weaving itself into nature and the lives of those around it."
    Its design includes creating eight themed stretches and 10 "activity nodes" -- that's designspeak for areas dedicated to different sports or pastimes.
    PIE Viaduct, one of the nodes, will be named the Community Cave and filled with yoga decks and a rock-climbing wall.
    Another, Queenstown Viaduct, becomes Passage of Light, with interactive floor lighting that responds to the speed of passing cyclists and pedestrians, according to the Straits Times.
    It also has a firefly garden. The new green corridor will have 122 access points, putting it under 400 meters or a five-minute walk from any residential or office areas along the route.
    Old railway buildings and artifacts will be restored and revamped "to celebrate the railway heritage," according to planners.
    Meanwhile, designers hope it'll trigger new development while helping the city maintain its status as one of Asia's fittest nations.
    "We hope the project will become a catalyst to urban growth as well as community bonding, and gradually become a central spine that symbolizes a new, healthy and active lifestyle of Singapore," says Kaneko.
    He adds that it has the potential to outshine other similar projects that have become a trend in cities around the world.

    Linear parks: On trend from Manhattan to Miami

    "Public space running right through the middle of the entire nation is absolutely sensational -- nothing similar at this scale in urban environment can be found anywhere else in the world," says Kaneko.
    "Its context is different from [New York's] High Line," says Tan. "It's a lot longer, and passes through many communities and ecosystems.
    "It's also mostly located at ground level and won't be an elevated park."
    Completed in 2014, New York's High Line is built on 2.3 kilometers of elevated disused railroad in Manhattan.
    In Sydney, Australia, the 500-meter Goods Line was reopened as a park in August 2015 after a $15 million renovation. Meanwhile, in London, linear park and green spaces are planned and under construction along Nine Elms on the south bank of the city's River Thames.
    Last year, Miami proposed the Underline, a linear park making use of the 16-kilometer-long space beneath its MetroRail track.
    And when can we start hitting Singapore's newest park? Consultations are still underway to fine tune the plan, so for now it's a rail track without a timetable.