Saudi Crown Prince plans new city with no cars, roads, carbon emissions

By: News Desk      Published: 12:22 PM, 11 Jan, 2021
Saudi Crown Prince plans new city with no cars, roads, carbon emissions

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled his latest vision for Saudi Arabia’s future beyond oil: a city with no cars, roads or carbon emissions.

The 170-kilometer-long (106 mile-long) development called “The Line” will be part of the $500 billion project called “Neom”, the crown prince said in a televised speech on Sunday.

A news release described The Line as a walkable “belt of hyper-connected future communities, without cars and roads and built around nature.” It said the city would have 1 million residents and create 380,000 jobs by 2030. The infrastructure will cost $100 billion to $200 billion, the crown prince said.

Neom is the crown jewel of Prince Mohammed’s plan to diversify the economy of the world’s largest crude exporter. Announced in 2017, the project spans more than 10,000 square miles in a remote area of the country’s northwest. It’s described on its website as “a bold and audacious dream” that will become a hub for new technologies and businesses.

The project has been plagued by skepticism and political controversy since its launch. Analysts question if it’s realistic and can attract the investment needed.

“The backbone of investment in The Line will come from the $500 billion support to Neom by the Saudi government, PIF and local and global investors over 10 years,” the prince told reporters in Al-Ula, referring to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. 

The announcement on Sunday shows the extent to which Prince Mohammed is thinking about life after oil for the kingdom, which earned over half of government revenue from crude in 2020. The project was the first major development to be announced within Neom.

“Why do we accept sacrificing nature for development?” the prince said, citing rising sea levels and carbon emissions in a manner rare for a Saudi official. The city, he said, would be a “revolution for mankind” with “zero cars, zero streets, zero emissions.”

No journey within The Line will be longer than 20 minutes, he said. The city would be built around “ultra-high-speed transit and autonomous mobility solutions,” according to the statement.

“By 2050, one billion people will have to relocate due to rising CO2 emissions and sea levels. 90% of people breathe polluted air. Why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development?... We need to transform the concept of a conventional city into that of a futuristic one,” he said.

Construction of The Line will commence in the first quarter of 2021.

Later. Al Arabiya quoted the crown prince saying that the infrastructure of the project is set to cost between $100 to 200 billion, and that the project was announced after three years of planning.

The project is a direct response to some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity, such as infrastructure, pollution, traffic and human congestion, NEOM said.

Construction of the revolutionary city will preserve 95 percent of nature within NEOM and will commence in the first quarter of this year. The project forms part of extensive development work already underway at NEOM.

The Line’s communities will be cognitive and powered by Artificial Intelligence and the city will comprise carbon-positive urban developments powered by completely clean energy.

The project will be an economic engine for the Kingdom and will drive diversification in line with the Vision 2030 reform programme.

The city will create 380,000 jobs and will contribute SR180 billion ($48 billon) to domestic GDP by 2030, the crown prince said. 

Walkability will define life in The Line and essential services such as schools, medical clinics, leisure facilities, as well as green spaces, will be within a five-minute walk. 

In addition to this, high-speed transit and autonomous mobility solutions will ensure that no journey will be longer than 20 minutes.