“Since the Industrial Revolution, cities have prioritised machines, cars and factories over people. Even in cities that claim to be the most advanced in the world, people spend years of their lives commuting. By 2050, commuting time will double”. These are the words of Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman to justify the city project he announced on Sunday 10th January in a television appearance. “Why do we have to sacrifice nature for the sake of development,” he added. The city, called The Line, forms part of NEOM, the transnational economic zone that was announced in 2017 as part of Vision 2030 to transform Saudi Arabia’s economy and free it from its dependence on oil.
The Line, with a projected population of 1 million residents, will stretch over 170km. It will be powered by 100% renewable energy, offer high-speed transport and autonomous vehicles. Its straight-line layout will ensure that basic services such as schools, medical clinics, markets, etc. are within a five-minute walk. The idea is that “no journey should take more than 20 minutes”. The city, oriented towards the preservation of nature and the well-being of the population, is organised on three levels: the first is for residential areas, green zones and pedestrian traffic; the second, underground and invisible to residents, will be for infrastructure, vehicles and services; and finally, the third level will house roads and tunnels for high-speed transport.