Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, launches a car-free city

The $ 500 billion NEOM project is to be built from scratch along the country’s Red Sea coast. (AP photo)

RIYADH: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of crude oil, announced on Sunday the launch of an “eco-city,” car-free, and carbon-free streets “in its future mega project, NEOM.

The $ 500 billion NEOM project, which is set to be built from scratch along the Kingdom’s picturesque Red Sea coast, has been described as an impressive development from science fiction movies.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled plans for a city he called “Al Khat”, in a presentation broadcast on state television.

He said it consists of “a city with a population of one million people and a length of 170 kilometers and preserves 95% of the nature inside Neom, with no cars, streets and carbon emissions.”

“We need to transform the concept of a traditional city into a futuristic city,” added the de facto leader of the pioneering Arab economy, which is regularly ranked among the world’s most polluting countries.

Prince Mohammed showed computer-generated pictures of “the line” as well as landscapes of pristine deserts and blue seas.

Services such as schools, health centers and green spaces will be available in the pedestrian city, as well as high-speed public transport, with the trip not expected to take more than 20 minutes, according to a NEOM statement.

The statement said that artificial intelligence will play a major role in the city, adding that “it will be powered by 100% clean energy, providing a pollution-free, healthier and more sustainable environment for the population.”

Construction of the city will begin in the first quarter of this year, with funding from the Public Investment Fund, the main tool through which the Kingdom diversifies its economy outside of oil.

A NEOM statement said that the project is set to create 380,000 jobs and contribute 180 billion riyals to the Kingdom’s GDP by 2030.

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