With his plans for a huge linear city that is to revolutionize urban life, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reaped many doubts. The latest satellite images show how it is actually being built now.
Saudi Arabia is not sparing with superlatives when it comes to The Line. That 170-kilometer-long and only 200-meter-wide city of the future that the kingdom wants to build. It is a “civilization revolution,” an “unprecedented living experience,” according to the website of the state project. There will be no roads, no cars. It will be powered exclusively by renewable energy.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the megaproject in January 2021. Now, the latest satellite images from LiveEO show how the linear project actually stretches through the country’s barren vegetation-free landscape. Construction workers are preparing the ground for the foundation and subway and removing rocks. In addition, the images provide clarity for the first time about how the linear city will run in the future.
The Line is to become part of the megametropolis Neom, which the Saudi government is building at the northern end of the Red Sea as the hydrogen capital of the world. Neom’s energy production is headed by none other than former RWE CEO Peter Terium.
Put on the Line
The city of The Line is to become the centerpiece of the planned Saudi megametropolis of Neom
WirtschaftsWoche had reported earlier this year how authorities had cleared several towns, evicted members of the Howeitat tribe and demolished their homes to make way for the massive plans. The new footage now shows that The Line is being built almost right next to one such cleared site, the village of Alkhuraybah.
Previously, the Saudis had raised a huge camp next to it for thousands of guest workers, who are now building the linear city. Another camp can be found a few kilometers to the east.
Over the past weeks and months, workers have primarily removed massive amounts of rock and sand to level the ground for the city of the future. High-resolution satellite images from September show excavators and bulldozers digging through the landscape and a huge number of trucks hauling away the earth.
However, this alone and the vast quantities of cement that will probably be used here in the next few years will probably make the climate balance of the green city of the future look anything but green. This is probably also one reason why foreign journalists are still not allowed access to Neom. Instead, there is at most an advertising video promoting the project.
The Line is expected to cost 100 to 200 billion U.S. dollars and be largely completed in 2045. Nine million people will then live behind the mirrored facade.
All places in the city are to be reached by a high-speed train within 20 minutes – including parks inside and outside. According to media reports, the kingdom is in talks with manufacturers such as Siemens, Hitachi and Alstom. Robots are to support people in their everyday lives. The plan is to create 380,000 jobs here by 2030.
The majority of the water requirements in the dry region will be supplied by desalination plants that treat water from the Red Sea. The plan is not to discharge the resulting salt back into the sea, so that corals, for example, do not suffer.
South of The Line as well as a new royal palace complete with golf course and Neom’s new airport, the crown prince is currently having Neom’s first large-scale green hydrogen factory built. Among other things, with electrolysis technology from thyssenkrupp. The plant will use solar energy to split water from the Red Sea to produce pure hydrogen. Thyssenkrupp is currently helping to build a large electrolysis plant south of The Line.
Satellite images of the site show mainly earthworks. Buildings are not yet visible at that location, but various outlines in the leveled sandy soil are.
In addition to ex-RWE CEO Terium, a number of German managers are involved with The Line and Neom: Ex-Siemens CEO Klaus Kleinfeld, for example, who was once CEO of Neom and now sits on the project’s advisory board. Or Alexander Rieck and Tobias Walliser, founders of the architecture firm Lava. They had already helped design the green city of Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. In Neom, they are designing the Trojena mountain resort.
However, there are also those who doubt that Saudi Arabia will succeed in this major project. After all, it would not be the first time that the country has made big announcements but then failed to keep them. The Jeddah Tower, for example, which may one day be the tallest building in the world, was supposed to be completed last year. But construction work is barely progressing and it is unclear when and if the building will be completed. Just a quarter of the 1007 meters have been reached.