When plans for The Line, Saudi Arabia’s planned city of the future, were announced, the completion of anything close to the country’s ambitious goals seemed far off. After all, a sustainable city in the shape of a straight line in the middle of the desert is something that’s never been done before. The Line aims to be car-free, have zero carbon emissions, and be powered only on clean energy — and that’s just the start. It’s one of the most ambitious city design campaigns the world has ever known, and many questioned whether it would ever come to fruition. But there’s good news for The Line optimists: parts of the city are well underway.
Construction began in April 2022, and the first city district, the Hidden Marina, is already seeing impressive progress. The Hidden Marina is slated to be open to residents and visitors on or before 2030.
“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,” Giles Pendleton, executive director of The Line, told Alarabiya News. “We’re moving over 90 million square meters of material on the site. By the end of 2024, over 30,000 piles, each exceeding 50 meters (164 feet) in depth and up to eight feet in width, will be placed to form the foundation of The Line.”
The Hidden Marina is just a small part of the larger picture, however. Sustainability, nature conservation, and livability, are at the heart of the city’s ethos. In the absence of automobiles, public spaces are being shaped to address the demand for urban land and mitigate the effects of climate change. A hyper rail link, powered entirely by renewable energy, will run through the city connecting its various neighborhoods, ensuring that people can reach their destination – wherever it might be – in just a few minutes.
“The design of The Line,” Pendleton says, “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.”
The Line is part of the Saudi government’s broader development of the NEOM region into a major international tourism hub. The entire region is slated to be built out with resorts, hiking trails, rock climbing routes, and heritage sites. It’s also an important part of Saudi Arabia’s plan to become a world tourism leader and more than triple the amount that tourism contributes to the country’s GDP. And with the current updates, it looks like NEOM is on the right track.