Analysis and evaluation of abandoned railways aimed at greenway conversion: A methodological application in the Sicilian landscape using multi-criteria analysis and geographical information system

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Marzia Quattrone
Giovanna Tomaselli *
Alessandro D'Emilio
Patrizia Russo
(*) Corresponding Author:
Giovanna Tomaselli | gitomas@unict.it

Abstract

Nowadays, in many countries around the world, abandoned railways are considered as important resources that can be recovered and converted into greenways, thanks to their specific adaptability to this function. With its about 1000 km of dismantled lines, Sicily is the Italian region where the abandonment of railways is more evident. Nevertheless, to the present day, only about 20 km have been converted in greenways. As a recovery action requires large investments, it is necessary to determine a priority list based on the actual suitability of a track to be converted. Therefore, the aim of this paper was to define and apply a methodology, based on multi-criteria analysis associated with geographical information system (GIS), for the assessment of different suitability degrees of an abandoned railway to be converted in greenway for agro-touristic and cultural use of the land. The work was developed on two abandoned railway lines, sited in the province of Syracuse, embedded in landscapes of great value thanks to the existence of natural areas and cultural heritage. The applied method attributes great importance to the quality of the landscape that is considered in the same way as the intrinsic characteristics of the track. Several indicators were weighed and spatially mapped to describe the local resources at the margin of the track and the characteristics of the stretches of the two lines. The GIS analysis allowed obtaining various intermediate maps containing the necessary information for drawing the ultimate maps, which showed the suitability of each line to be converted in greenway. The results showed that the suitability level depends on the specific characteristics of the railroad and its marginal values, as well as on the quality of the landscape and the development opportunities that it offers. The creation of greenways can thus become a support to make easier the integration between the landscape and the growing demands of land, economic and tourist development, while maintaining intact the rural land and favoring its connection with the urban centers. The study, although referred to specific territorial areas, is generally valid from a methodological point of view and can be applied in other contexts.


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