Saudi Arabia Scaling Back Plans for ‘The Line’ Megacity

According to Bloomberg, Saudi Arabia has scaled back its ambitious plans for a futuristic megacity known as ‘The Line’, after it has faced a series of delays and additionally faces uncertainty regarding funding for the project.

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

The Line is just one part, though the largest, of Saudi Arabia’s ‘Neom’ project. Neom aims to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil. The Saudi Arabian economy, as one of the world’s largest oil producers, is heavily reliant upon oil. However, as portions of the world begin to move off of fossil fuels, the Saudi government has sought different avenues towards diversifying their economy, in order to carry them into a world where fossil fuels hold less relevance. Many of these projects Saudi Arabia had been aiming to have done, in part or in full, by 2030.

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announcing ‘The Line’ project in January of 2021 (Photo from Reuters).

The Line is their most ambitious, and largest, part of Neom. It is a megacity, sided with mirrors, that is set to span a whopping 105 miles, going in a line through the Saudi desert. The city is supposed to be carless, hold within it a multitude of state of the art technologies in order to better daily life, have several of the world’s fastest trains in order to facilitate travel, be as tall as the Empire State Building, and eventually become home to nine million people.

Neom’s total cost is to be an estimated 1.5 trillion USD. The development of the various projects is to be carried out over several stages.

While some of the Neom projects have been completed, or are nearing completion, The Line is not one such project.

By 2030 Saudi Arabia had hoped to have enough of The Line completed in order to become home to approximately 1.5 million people. However, after the project has faced continual delays, officials have now changed their expectations. Now it is only expected that a mile and a half of the project’s construction will be completed by 2030, and it will only be able to house approximately 300,000 people.

A promotional image of ‘The Line’, produced by Saudi Arabia (Photo from Neom/AFP/Getty Images).

The Line has been delayed by a number of different factors. Namely, key figures in the project have continually been changed out for new people, as well as a lack of clarity on if the amount of funds needed will be achievable. The uncertainty of funds, and the perceived pullback from the Saudi government, has resulted in at least one contractor dismissing a number of its workers who were employed in the project.

By 2030, the first phase of Neom is expected to cost 320 billion USD. Half of this cost is to be covered by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). However, the PIF presently has its lowest cash reserves since 2020, only holding 15 billion USD in reserves as of September 2023.

The issues the PIF is facing in building up its cash reserves has caused worry that Neom may simply be too expensive.

The Neom project, in particular The Line, has faced significant criticism. Many have referred to the project as unrealistic, including some former staff who had worked on The Line that claimed it was “untethered from reality.”

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.


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