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NEW TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE BOOSTS LA REUNION ISLAND’S APPEAL

La Réunion Island is boosting its transport infrastructure with two cable-cars linking districts in the regional capital Saint-Denis, an expansion of its airport and a new spectacular viaduc built over the sea along the coast linking the north and the west of the region.

The French overseas region of La Réunion in the Indian Ocean is known by tourists as one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots: its National Park covers 40% of the territory and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for over a decade. A Natural Marine Reserve extends over more than 40km to preserve fragile ecosystems.

However, the island might soon gain a reputation for also having exceptional transport infrastructure.

Saint-Denis, French capital of… cable-cars!

The capital city of Saint-Denis will have a cable car before the end of the year. It will link, over a length of 2.7km, four districts located on hills within the city centre. Five stations will be connected by 46 ten-seater cabins. The project is not only the first cable car in La Réunion but also for the entire Indian Ocean. However, not for long…

La Réunion Island will have a dedicated network of cable cars in Saint-Denis.
Saint-Denis – artist’s impression of the first cable car line (Photo: CINOR)

By 2023, a second line will open. With a length of 1.3 km, it will connect other high-perched districts with the city centre via two 50-seat cabins. Both lines will provide sweeping panoramas of Saint-Denis for locals but also for visitors.

The project will also be an opportunity to implement an environmental development with photovoltaic shades and electric vehicle charging stations. A third cable car line is already in the project stage. Saint-Denis will then be France’s leading urban centre for cable-car transportation.

A viaduct over the sea

In parallel, another spectacular transport infrastructure is taking shape. Along the coast linking the north to the west of La Réunion island, where the best beaches are located, the region has invested heavily in the New Coastal Road (NCR). Touted as France’s most expensive highway at a cost of €2 bn for a 12.5km stretch, it will replace the first Coastal Road built in 1963.

A 12.5 km new coastal road will improve mobility in La Réunion.
The New Coastal Road with its spectacular viaduct linking the north to the west of La Réunion (Photo: Region La Réunion)

The most spectacular part of the road is a 5.4km-long viaduct. Achieved last March, it is due to open by the end of the year. The viaduct stands between 20m and 30m above sea level and 70m away from the coast. It will protect cars from potential landslides or rock falls. The elevated highway has a dual three-lane configuration capable of accommodating buses, cars, pedestrians and bicycles.

The viaduct is due to turn into a popular tourist attraction and bike trail. Meanwhile, the rest of the project has been postponed, following political changes in the region.

An eco-friendly arrivals terminal at the airport

Last but not least, the European Union has given its green light to help in financing the expansion of Saint-Denis International Airport. The island’s main gateway is investing €113m to build a second terminal dedicated for arriving passengers. The project will boost the total airport capacity to 3.5 million passengers a year. The building has been designed in accordance with bioclimatic principles. Natural ventilation will replace AC in most areas of the terminal.

Air transport is due to grow again after a disastrous year 2020. Passenger traffic declined by 58% to 1.04 million passengers compared to over 2.5 million travellers in 2019. However, the summer season has seen all airlines increasing their presence between France and the overseas region with a boost in frequencies from La Réunion “national” carrier Air Austral but also from Air France, French Bee and Corsair. Most international flights remain suspended apart from weekly frequencies to Madagascar island.

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