By Vivian Nereim, Bloomberg
Riyadh- Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled his latest vision for Saudi Arabia's future beyond oil: a city with no cars, roads or carbon emissions.
The 170 kilometer-long (106 mile-long) development called "The Line" will be part of the $500 billion project called "Neom," the crown prince said in a televised speech on Sunday. Construction is planned to start in the first quarter.
A news release described The Line as a walkable "belt of hyper-connected future communities, without cars and roads and built around nature." It said the city would have 1 million residents and create 380,000 jobs by 2030. The infrastructure will cost $100 billion to $200 billion, the crown prince said.
Neom is the crown jewel of Prince Mohammed's plan to diversify the economy of the world's largest crude exporter. Announced in 2017, the project spans more than 10,000 square miles in a remote area of the country's northwest. It's described on its website as "a bold and audacious dream" that will become a hub for new technologies and businesses.
The project has been plagued by skepticism and political controversy since its launch. Analysts question if it's realistic and can attract the investment needed.
"The backbone of investment in The Line will come from the $500 billion support to Neom by the Saudi government, PIF and local and global investors over 10 years," the prince told reporters in Al-Ula, referring to Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.
The announcement on Sunday shows the extent to which Prince Mohammed is thinking about life after oil for the kingdom, which earned over half of government revenue from crude in 2020. The project was the first major development to be announced within Neom.
"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 the statement.
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