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No cars, no roads, no traffic — Saudi unveils The Line city at Neom

Muzaffar Rizvi/Dubai
Filed on January 11, 2021
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announces a zero-carbon city called 'The Line' to be built at Neom in northwestern Saudi Arabia. — AFP

First major construction project for the $500 billion flagship business zone aimed at diversifying the economy of the world’s largest oil exporter

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has unveiled plans to build a zero-carbon city at Neom, the first major construction project for the $500 billion flagship business zone aimed at diversifying the economy of the world’s largest oil exporter.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a rare televised appearance, said the city, known as ‘The Line’, would extend over 170km and be able to house a million residents in “carbon-positive urban developments powered by 100 per cent clean energy”.

The construction of Saudi’s first eco-city with zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions at futuristic Neom mega development would start in the first quarter of 2021. It is expected to contribute $48 billion to the kingdom’s gross domestic product and create 380,000 jobs by 2030, according to a Saudi statement.

The pedestrian city will have services such as schools, health centres and green spaces, as well as high-speed public transportation, with no journey expected to take more than 20 minutes, according to a Neom statement.

“Why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development?” Prince Mohammed said. “We need to transform the concept of a conventional city into that of a futuristic one.”

The prince later told reporters in the northwestern city of Al Ula that the project was the conclusion of three years of preparation, adding that its infrastructure would cost $100 billion to $200 billion.

“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,” he added.

The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), is the cornerstone investor in Neom, a 26,500-square-km (10,230-square-mile) high-tech development on the Red Sea with several zones.

Neom, a 26,500-square-km high-tech development on the Red Sea with several zones including an industrial and logistics areas, planned for completion in 2025, was announced by Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017 as a pillar of his Vision 2030 plan to rid Saudi Arabia of its reliance on crude oil revenues. It is billed as a development evocative of a sci-fi blockbuster.

“We need to transform the concept of a conventional city into that of a futuristic one,” said the Saudi Prince while showing computer-generated images of ‘The Line’ as well as landscapes of pristine deserts and blue seas.

The pedestrian city will have services such as schools, health centres and green spaces, as well as high-speed public transportation, with no journey expected to take more than 20 minutes, according to a Neom statement.

“Artificial Intelligence will play a key role in the city,” the statement said.

Kristine Pitts, director of Serco’s ExperienceLab, the public services company’s user-centred research and design agency, said this project will change the way people live, travel and possibly how and where they work.

"It is crucial, when planning for such massive development projects, to take a user-centred design approach. In the case of ‘The Line’ there should be a focus on the target audience with sufficient research undertaken from the outset and the services should then be built in a way to meet their needs, delivering customer happiness and achieving the project’s grand vision.

"Building spaces with citizens in a co-creative way not only enhances the end results for those who choose to live there, but also creates something unique – a modern and futuristic city built around its residents," Pitts said.

Paul Bogan, chief digital officer, Serco Middle East, said this is truly a very exciting project that visions how living can be shaped and enabled from a green-filled natural area. "Without all the constraints of existing infrastructure to work around within an existing city, Neom imagined, realised and focused on the most important component of any destination: the citizens," he said.

"Having a cognitive city that is fully interconnected with AI enabled infrastructure means that all respected assets act as sensors to provide a permanent interaction between the citizens and the technology that surrounds them, to share knowledge. The aggregation and analysis of the data will provide the insights and decision making to keep improving the overall citizen experience through efficiencies, sustainability enablement and resilience for the future,” Bogan said.

— muzaffarizvi@khaleejtimes.com

With inputs from agencies





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