Plans call for the city to be built on the shore of the Red Sea and to be settled by a population of 1 million.
The project was presented by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and named The Line, with the city to take shape in the NEOM futuristic city and business centre and stretching 170 km along a straight line.
Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s biggest oil producers, has long considered how it might diversify its economy and develop alternative energy sources.
Half of the country’s income comes from oil. The Saudi Vision 2030 programme calls for serious diversification of the economy to reduce its dependence on the commodity over the next 10 years.
And the crown prince declared that The Line, as a “green city”, would have “zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions.” Its residents would be able to meet their every need — including health care, education and recreation – within five minutes on foot from home. Travelling from one end of the city to the other would take no more than 20 minutes by a high-speed rail link.
The city would be built on three levels. The ground level would feature all the buildings and pedestrian zones. All the infrastructure needed to provide services would be underground. A third level, also underground, would contain all the transport, run by artificial intelligence – complete with metro lines and routes for high-speed vehicles conveying goods.
The surface level would consist of a belt of interlinked communities dubbed “modules” by the scheme’s designers. All buildings would be energy-efficient – powered by “green sources”.
In the world’s most developed cities, the crown prince said, people waste years and years commuting and by 2050 this trend is likely to take up twice the time.
“Why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development? Why should seven million people die every year because of pollution?” media quoted him as saying at a presentation of the project. “Why should we lose one million people every year due to traffic accidents?”
Construction of The Line is due to begin in the first quarter of 2021. The cost of infrastructure is estimated at $100 billion to $200 billion, prompting sceptics to wonder whether the project will attract sufficient investment.
“The backbone of investment in the Line will come from the $500 billion support from NEOM by the Saudi government, PIF (Public Investment Fund) and local and global investors over 10 years,” the crown prince was quoted as saying.
NEOM refers to a site in northwestern Saudi Arabia where plans to build a $500 billion megalopolis were first announced in 2017. The project has already been dubbed the most ambitious in history – to build a super-city from scratch on a territory measuring 25,000 sq. km. with its own laws and judicial system.
The city is to function on the basis of solar panels and other renewable energy sources and is to be self-sufficient in food thanks to new technologies and sea farms. Its activities will focus in part on developing innovative technologies in various sectors.
The project is by no means the first artificial city proposed by Saudi authorities – an earlier project known as KAEC (King Abdullah Economic City) has yet to be completed. And it cannot be ruled out that a similar fate awaits NEOM.