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France

Assembly approves plans to create "Greater Paris"

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-12-01

The French National Assembly approved plans Tuesday to create "Greater Paris", the bill must now clear the Senate for final approval. The plan would cost 21 billion euros, with the aim of creating closer ties between Paris and its surrounding suburbs

AFP - The French National Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill setting in motion a master plan to create a "Greater Paris" with a new 40-station metro line connecting the capital to its gritty suburbs.

The legislation outlining the 21-billion-euro (32-billion-dollar) infrastructure project was adopted by a vote of 299 to 216 and is due to go before the Senate for final approval in February.

It establishes the Greater Paris authority tasked with building the figure-eight metro line that will snake its way from Charles de Gaulle airport north of Paris to the city's outer limits and south to Orly airport.

The huge project has been championed by President Nicolas Sarkozy as he seeks to put his stamp on Paris, turning the capital into a 21st-century metropolis able to compete with global rivals London, New York or Tokyo.

Christian Blanc, the minister responsible for development of the capital area, said work on the 130-kilometre (80-mile) metro line could start at the end of 2013 and the new stations could begin opening in 2017.

Sarkozy last year asked 10 teams of world-class architects to come up with proposals for the Paris of the future, with a special emphasis on transport to break down the divide between the city proper and its volatile suburbs.

Unlike London, which is home to eight million people in the city and its suburbs, Paris has just two million citizens while at least six million more live in surrounding areas under separate local governments.

Paris' last major urban planning project was carried out in the mid-19th century, when Georges-Eugene Haussmann led a massive renovation programme.

Since then, the gap has grown between a historic centre, fairly attractive western suburbs and other poor, often bleak neighbourhoods, cut off from public transport and facilities.

The disconnect between Paris and its poorer, high-immigrant suburbs is seen as a key reason for the riots of 2005.

On Tuesday, the Socialist opposition voted against the bill and some members of Sarkozy's right-wing party also broke ranks to press demands for more negotiations with local councils.

The Ile-de-France region spanning Paris and seven surrounding departments is controlled by the left, which fears being sidelined in the process.

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DATELINE:20091201T172640+0100

Date created : 2009-12-01

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