A significant chunk of our towns and cities are made of roads. By and large, big settlements are congested and polluted, with these issues only set to get worse amid growing populations across the world.
Saudi Arabia reckons it has a solution - bin all the roads and cars, and build a city in one line. A 106-mile line. Wait, what?
The proposal is for a ‘linear city’, an urban planning idea which goes back over 100 years. One was even built - Spain’s Ciudad Lineal. It was on a much smaller scale, though, and was eventually swallowed up by Madrid’s expanding metropolitan area.
Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, has announced plans for something more ambitious/ridiculous called ‘The Line’. This extensive development will supposedly be built in the northwest chunk of the country designated the ‘Neom’ business area.
Along the ‘spine’ would be a series of ‘city modules’ which would put most of the residents’ needs, for instance, schools, medical services, leisure facilities and green space, within five minute’s walk. Should the need arise to leave your ‘module’, you’d hop on a rapid transit system capable of reaching one end of The Line to the other in 20 minutes.
Yep, all of this seems to hinge on a hyperloop, a fanciful idea that’s arguably just as dubious as The Line. It’s an interesting concept involving a sealed tube that gives a near-vacuum, enabling a maglev train to bomb down it without having to worry about air resistance.
Small hyperloop test sections have been built, but there are questions over costs, safety and technical feasibility that are yet to be answered. The Line’s proposed hyperloop would be a complicated one too, with conventionally-propelled metro and freight lines running alongside. Oh, and just above that, there would be an “invisible layer of infrastructure” hidden under the city’s surface. That’s a lot of digging.
The benefits of building everything in one long line don’t seem to have been clarified, either. As pointed out by Popular Mechanics and other publications, arranging the city in a big circle would cut the maximum journey time in half. It’d still be a flawed idea, of course.
The whole smells even more of vapourware than the average start-up supercar company, despite the insistence that construction is beginning imminently. It’s hard not to see The Line as anything other than an attempt for Saudi Arabia to improve its image by distracting from the country’s issues surrounding human rights and corruption.
That said, The Neom development already has image problems of its own (aside from some of its laughably far-fetched details which include an artificial moon), with an estimated 20,000 members of the Huwaitat tribe facing eviction to make way for the crown prince’s $500 billion plans.