The world’s top oil producing nation has launched the vision of a city with a future involving no cars; a future beyond oil, road, or carbon emissions. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday unveiled his plan to diversify the Saudi economy with the $500 billion project called “Neom”. In his televised speech he stated that the 170 kilometer-long development called “The Line” will be a part of the same project, the construction for which is planned to begin in the first quarter of 2021.
The word chosen for the project- “NEOM”-has been derived from the Latin word for ‘new’ while the last character “M” is an abbreviation of the Arabic word “Mostaqbal” which means ‘future’.
Announced in 2017, the project spans across 10,000 square miles in a remote area of Saudi’s northwest. Described on its website as “a bold and audacious dream”, the establishment aims to become a hub for new technologies and businesses. A news release described The Line as a walkable “belt of hyper-connected future communities, without cars and roads and built around nature.” With infrastructural costs to fall between $100 billion and $200 billion, the city will have 1 million residents and will be able to create 3.8 lakh jobs by 2030.The project will be funded by the Saudi government, PIF and local and global investors over 10 years.
“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 a statement.
Project NEOM was announced in the year 2017, and has been plagued by scepticism and political controversy ever since. Analysts have been questioning whether such a project would be sustainable from the point of view of investors, and whether the plan is realistic at all.