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Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

The iconic line from Back to the Future would be a fitting strapline for the new urban development being developed in Saudi Arabia’s $500B NEOM future city. Called THE LINE, it is being ‘designed around people, not roads’.

NEOM, championed as a ‘roadmap for the future of civilisation’, is the city being built in northwest Saudi Arabia where three continents will meet. It will connect Asian, European and African markets and will operate as an independent economic zone.

This week His Royal Highness Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince and Chairman of the NEOM Company Board of Directors, announced THE LINE. Labelled a ‘blueprint for how people and planet can co-exist in harmony’, it will be a 170km zone of hyper-connected communities in NEOM with no cars or roads, which is built around nature. Where residents will be able to access services like schools, medical clinics, leisure facilities, as well as green spaces, on foot within five minutes.

His Royal Highness said: “Throughout history, cities were built to protect their citizens. After the Industrial Revolution, cities prioritized machines, cars and factories over people. In cities that are viewed as the world’s most advanced, people spend years of their lives commuting. By 2050, commute durations will double. 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? Why should seven million people die every year because of pollution? Why should we lose one million people every year due to traffic accidents? And why should we accept wasting years of our lives commuting?”

“We need to transform the concept of a conventional city into that of a futuristic one.”

His Royal Highness added. “As the Chairman of the Board of Directors of NEOM, I present to you THE LINE. A city of a million residents with a length of 170 km that preserves 95% of nature within NEOM, with zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions.”

Carbon-positive urban developments powered by 100% clean energy will define THE LINE, providing ‘pollution-free, healthier and more sustainable environments for residents’. The idea here is that ‘mixed- use communities will be built around nature, instead of over it’. Communities that will be powered by AI technologies continually identifying smarter and more balanced ways for residents to live.

Construction work on THE LINE, a cornerstone of the Saudi Vision 2030 initiative, will begin within weeks.

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Written By

Iain is a creative writer, journalist and lecturer, and formerly an editor of two international business publications. Iain is now editor of Innovators Magazine, as well as the strategic content director for OnePoint5Media.

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