The Saudi Arabian government unveiled plans for THE LINE in 2021, a 170 km belt of communities that would be connected without the use of vehicles or roadways. The designs of THE LINE have now been released by His Royal Highness Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince and Chairman of the NEOM Board of Directors, providing a more in-depth look at the key features of the world’s first zero-gravity vertical city. The smart city would be only 200 meters wide, 170 kilometers long, and 500 meters above sea level. It will be situated in NEOM, a location being constructed in the Tabuk Province of northwest Saudi Arabia.
The centerpiece of the futuristic NEOM site near the Gulf of Aqaba, the development’s extraordinary ambition was further revealed this week when Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s crown prince, outlined key components of what he intends to be one of the most ambitious urban developments ever constructed.
Since THE LINE was first unveiled in 2017, NEOM has drawn attention for its futuristic features, like flying taxis and robot maids, even as economists and architects have questioned its viability.
The 500-meter-high, 200-meter-wide building, a car-free, carbon-neutral bubble that will claim nearly 100% sustainability and a moderate, controlled microclimate, will use artificial intelligence at its core, according to the Saudis. Environmentalists have expressed skepticism in the past about the kingdom’s environmental commitments, such as a promise to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2060.
What had previously been an idea that even some of the project’s planners had difficulty visualizing has now been given color through multimedia presentations. The slickly produced movies depict a megacity with hanging gardens that somewhat mimic the Death Star. In addition to having access to other benefits like outdoor skiing facilities and a “high-speed train with an end-to-end travel of 20 minutes,” residents will be able to access “all everyday requirements” within a five-minute walk.
Saudi officials claim they have no plans to lift the nation’s prohibition on alcohol, despite the fact that NEOM will function under its own foundation statute, which is currently being created.
Prince Mohammed’s efforts to change the kingdom from an oil-dependent economy and conservative society that he believes are unfit to propel the Kingdom forward are centered on his vision for modern living.
NEOM was partly envisioned as a break from tradition and the sclerosis of the preceding four decades, during which time officials reinforced a strict interpretation of Islam while upholding rigid social norms.
The Line is reportedly the “most liveable city by far,” according to the de facto ruler of the kingdom, who made this claim on Monday. He claimed that the model he envisioned would replace the unregulated urban development and waste that had decreased the standard of living for city dwellers.
According to Prince Mohammed, the project’s “first phase” would cost 1.2 trillion Saudi riyals, or roughly £265 billion. It would last until 2030. He noted that in addition to government grants, other potential funding sources included the private sector and NEOM’s anticipated IPO in 2024.
He is believed to want Saudi Arabia to be as well-known internationally as other nations in the area, and he has reportedly expressed this desire to advisers and planners in private. However, several analysts have questioned if the project can ever get off the ground due to the project’s extravagant nature and its numerous manifestations over the past five years.
“With little access to the site, and only eight years left before residents are meant to move in, it’s a lot to take on trust,” said one consultant who works closely with the Saudi government. “And then there’s the inertia in the system. It’s hard to excise that.”
Robert Mogielnicki of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington told Agence France-Presse: “The concept has morphed so much from its early conception that it’s sometimes hard to determine its direction: scaling down, scaling up, or making an aggressive turn sideways.”
Prince Mohammed is hoping for a nationwide population boom that he says will be necessary to make Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, an economic powerhouse. “That’s the main purpose of building NEOM,” he said. “To raise the capacity of Saudi Arabia, get more citizens and more people in Saudi Arabia. And since we are doing it from nothing, why should we copy normal cities?”
He said that NEOM may create up to 380,000 jobs in the face of a growing population and a sizable proportion of young people looking for work. According to Saudi estimates, the kingdom’s population might reach 50 million by 2030, with more than half of them being foreigners. The present population of Saudi Arabia is little about 35 million.