Exclusive: Saudi’s NEOM unveils latest on THE LINE, first neighborhood update

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Saudi Arabia’s revolutionary THE LINE project – a 170-kilometer-long city to eventually house up to nine million people and which will be the beating heart of the Kingdom’s NEOM’s $500 billion mega project – is a fifth of the way to completion, developers have told Al Arabiya English.

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Giles Pendleton, Executive Director, THE LINE, said the vertical interconnected city, which aims to be free of cars, have zero carbon emissions, be powered entirely on clean energy and be run by artificial intelligence, is “well on track,” as he revealed details of the first neighborhood that will be open to residents.

Construction on the vast site started in April 2022, and the first city district, the Hidden Marina, is due to welcome residents and visitors by or before 2030.

“With a timeline set to welcome its first residents and guests by the decade’s end, our project team at NEOM is working to bring this innovative city to life,” Pendleton told Al Arabiya English.

“Our current status signifies about 20 percent of the essential infrastructure is already in place. We’re [now] zeroing in on the development of crucial elements like robust transportation networks, efficient utility systems, and meticulous urban planning – all vital for success and functionality.”

“Modern construction methods, using a pioneering ‘kit of parts,’ mean THE LINE can be constructed faster, safer, more efficiently, more sustainably, and at a consistently higher quality than conventional builds,” said Pendleton.

Construction of the Hidden Marina underway

In the weeks ahead, the excavation of the Hidden Marina will reach its peak, and foundation works will escalate to become the largest piling operation the world has ever seen.

Integrated Control Center

“To ensure the efficiency and transparency of our operations, an integrated control center (ICC) helps us see every aspect of the on-site activities around the clock,” said Pendleton. “This continuous monitoring enables us to adhere to the highest industry standards of accuracy, project management, and responsiveness, thereby boosting productivity and efficiency while prioritizing health, safety, and environmental considerations.”

THE LINE will be the centerpiece of NEOM, one of the world’s most ambitious sustainable urban developments, planned by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. NEOM, Saudi Arabia’s flagship business and tourism development on the Red Coast will, when completed, be home to smart towns, ports, research hubs, sports and entertainment venues and tourism centers. Its first project slated for completion – the luxury island Sindalah – will welcome guests on the Red Coast resort in 2024. Other NEOM projects, such as OXAGON, touted to be the “world’s largest floating structure” which will be the business and industrial arm of NEOM and Trojena, the luxury mountain resort where visitors can ski all year found, are already in the works.

Photo shows a rendering of the upcoming TROJENA project in NEOM as part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030. (Supplied)
Photo shows a rendering of the upcoming TROJENA project in NEOM as part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030. (Supplied)

But it is THE LINE, the first city in the world to be powered entirely by renewable energy and hydrogen, and the world’s first zero gravity vertical city, which has garnered worldwide attention.

Scale and size

Pendleton gave a snapshot of some statistics or hind the gigs project to put the project in context in terms of scale and size.

“To comprehend the magnitude of THE LINE’s construction, let’s look at the Hidden Marina, which is currently the most extensive infrastructure excavation project in the world,” he told Al Arabiya English. “We’re moving over 90 million m³ of material on the site. By the end of 2024, over 30,000 piles, each exceeding 50 meters in depth and up to 2.5 meters in width, will be placed to form the foundation of THE LINE.”

“The sheer scale of our project can be understood by comparing it with the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, which have 104 piles each.”

The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Reuters)
The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Reuters)

Pendleton said the idea of a vertical city came to fruition by “recognizing the urgency to establish a new model for our cities’ design, construction, and operation.”

“Therefore, NEOM held a Regional Planning competition, inviting renowned names in architecture and design to contribute. We then worked with world-leading architects, designers, and urban thinkers who contributed to THE LINE’s designs, playing a pivotal role in this groundbreaking urban revolution.”

Pendleton said that when it comes to living in THE LINE, the nine million projected people expected to live in the vast city can expect to have an array of amenities on their doorstep.

“THE LINE is a city designed for people, where the burden of cars is eliminated,” he explained. “It’s all about neighborhoods designed to bring essential services within a five-minute walk. If you think about it, many of today’s cities have lost their community feeling due to the car and the sprawling nature of urbanization. Workplaces, schools, universities, shopping precincts, parks, and public transport are all a short stroll from your front door. We’re adding in a variety of significant anchor assets to the city to enhance the urban living experience.”

Redefining urban development, future cities

THE LINE, he said, will redefine the concept of urban development and what cities of the future should look like.

“THE LINE will serve as a groundbreaking model for the development of cities, adopting a radical approach to nature conservation, human livability, and human progress,” he said. “Devoid of automobiles and their associated infrastructure, buildings, and public spaces are reconfigured in a three-dimensional manner, prioritizing the needs of people. This innovative design approach can effectively tackle significant challenges, including the increasing demand for urban land, rising social and economic disparities, and the impacts of climate change.”

“The design of THE LINE aims to ensure universal and equitable access to amenities and services while guaranteeing that all residents have direct views of and immediate access to nature. As a car-free city, it consists of highly diverse and walkable communities, allowing residents to reach their daily necessities within a five-minute walk.”

Construction underway on THE LINE. (Supplied)
Construction underway on THE LINE. (Supplied)

There will also be a hyper rail link running through the city to boost travel and – in alignment with NEOM’s green ethos – will be powered through a renewable-powered electric system.

Like all projects within NEOM, according to Pendleton, sustainability is at the heart of THE LINE.

“From a conservation perspective, THE LINE presents a city capable of accommodating up to 9 million inhabitants with a land footprint that is only 2 percent of that of cities with a comparable population,” he said. “This is made possible by its linear design, which allows nature to flourish and contributes to the preservation of 95 percent of NEOM’s vast 26,500 km2 land area.”

“Furthermore, THE LINE serves as a model for a city that operates entirely on renewable energy sources and is supported by sustainable water and food production systems.”

‘Placemakers’ film

Renowned physicist, best-selling author and television presenter Professor Michio Kaku recently visited THE LINE, to see how the city of the future is coming together.

His trip was documented in a new film titled ‘Placemakers,’ which explores how and why THE LINE is being built and includes insights from Professor Kaku and the experts building this place of the future.

Speaking in the film, Professor Kaku said THE LINE could help tackle the traditional urban challenges of traffic, pollution, inequality and overcrowding – adding: “We can do better, we can create – perhaps out of the desert – a city that would be sustainable, livable.

He sums up the mega project in a simple sentence: “THE LINE shows us a new way of doing things. A template by which we can create cities of the future. By which other nations can compare their plans with what is being done here in Saudi Arabia. We are creating the future of the human race.”

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