Saudi Arabia’s viral The Line “future city” already loses lustre

  • Saudi Arabia has drastically pulled back on its plans to build a 170 km long city across the desert.
  • Instead of housing 1.5 million people, current plans will only see about 300 000 residents and for the structure to be 2.4 km long.
  • The changes come as the realities of Saudi Arabia’s wide range of massive investments come crashing down on its heads of state.

Standing taller than the Empire State Building, as wide as three skyscrapers put together and spanning 170 km across the scorching Saudi Arabian desert as a nearly invisible future metropolis, The Line – an real upcoming mega structure sent netizens into a craze when it was revealed last year.

Not only did it look like something out of a sci-fi film, but it would be real and would be funded by an endless supply of Saudi money, and you could even live there come 2030. It would cost $1.5 trillion to construct.

Unfortunately for those looking forward to seeing the first real megacity a la Judge Dredd come to life, it seems like reality has come crashing down for the designers of The Line, and its bankroller, Saudi Crown Prince and de facto head of state Mohammed bin Salman.

The Line would hold Neom, called the first city of the future and was originally planned to house 1.5 million residents in a completely zero-carbon city, powered by automatic service delivery robots. However, according to Bloomberg which has seen internal documentation of Neom, the project is being scaled back drastically by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Now, when it is finished it will hold 300 000 residents instead of 1.5 million, and instead of spanning 170 km, it will now only cover 2.4 km. The scaling back comes as the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund has yet to actually approve the project’s budget for 2024.

It seems that the realities of investing trillions of dollars across a wide range of industries are setting in for the kingdom as it rushes to complete the grandiose plans in its Vision 2030 agenda. Vision 2030 is supposed to see Saudi Arabia expand its economy with several diverse and high-cost investments.

According to Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al Jadaan in December, some investments that form part of Vision 2030 are already being delayed past 2030. The kingdom needs time to “build factories, build even sufficient human resources,” explained the finance minister about the delays.

If the plans for The Line can continue as they are now, without further scale-backs, it would still represent a wonderous piece of architecture and a landmark achievement for Bin Salman and his kingdom. Similar to how the Burj Khalifa remains a symbol of wealth and power for the United Arab Emirates.

Until then, the company behind Neom has seen other successes. Like the development of an $8 billion-plus project to build solar and wind farms for the production of green hydrogen. This plan is part of the kingdom’s ambitions to become the global leader in clean energy and to reduce its reliance on selling fossil fuels.

[Image – Neom]


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