The road from Tabuk to Neom, often called “Opportunity Road”, is reminiscent of the trail toward a Gold Rush in the old times, and the traffic heading towards Sharma from Tabuk bears testimony to this with heavily laden truck after truck and fully loaded passenger vehicles vastly outnumbering the number heading in the opposite direction, either empty or sparsely filled.
The two main areas of focus, The Line and the Neom Industrial City, are slowly taking shape and there are already signs of progress and real growth happening.
The Neom Base Camp with its solar-powered streetlighting and neatly aligned row upon row of accommodation and interlinked housing units are all neatly packaged and ideal for the “best of the best” industry brains and experts from all around the globe, working cohesively on making the vision of Neom a reality.
The associated Neom staff accommodation developments – which are massive at Sharma, and Neom Bay Camp 2 (over 5,000 labourers and supervisors) are now in full swing and functioning; and the various main buildings that will eventually be for housing administration, planning and operation facilities and staff are starting to rise. Now that there is worker accommodation, the progress will inevitably be significant in the future under the guidance of Aecom, an appointed leading project management company.
The major roadworks undertaken to expand and increase the traffic flow between Sharma and Tabuk are currently extensively evident, and the result will eventually be a magnificent comfortable seamless drive between the two towns.
US-based engineering firm Parsons, the project management company (PMC) appointed to oversee work at the Neom Industrial City, colloquially named NIC, is already facing the mammoth task of moving around 36 million cu m of soil in the next year to get the development area ready for the construction of the industrial city.
According to a US Saudi Business Council report “Neom will include a Circular City 7 km in diameter, half of which will be built on land and the rest floating over the water. The design is focused on modern manufacturing, industrial research, and development centered on expansion of the Duba port – a concept which was also used for the development of Jubail Industrial City in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. The city will further include a Southern Cluster which will house a hydrogen plant, a desalination plant, and manufacturing facilities”.
Neom Industrial City will encompass the whole of Port Duba and surrounding area, possibly even including Wadi Her on the coastline. Assystem Envy, one of Turkey’s leading consultancy and engineering firms, has carried out significant work involving siting and impact studies for the construction of the Duba Port within NIC. Its scope of works included a Duba Port Inception Report, Duba Port Background and Statement of Need, surface geophysical surveys, onshore drilling in eight boreholes, 35 SPT (Standard Penetration Test) at eight onshore boreholes, Duba Port Site Area Report, and the Duba Port Preliminary and Final Interpretative Report.
On the road linking Sharma, Al Muweileh and Duba, scores of trucks move up and down daily, like rows of army ants in exacting formation, carting soil, goods, and the rubble from torn-down residential housing to make way for progress and the vision of Neom – Saudi Arabia’s Shangri La to be.
The plans are all there for large-scale housing complexes of villas, a major sports facility/venue and hospitals and educational facilities and construction packages are being released for tender or contracts awarded almost weekly.
The UK company Solar Water is actively engaged in building the first-ever “solar dome”, an extraordinary desalination plant in the northwest of Neom, and this pilot project will be a first using this technology which could help to increase substantially the supply of fresh water from saline water economically at around $0.34/cu m.
RSK, the leading UK company of environmental specialists, has been seen in Neom represented by its subsidiary WRc which is currently designing and working on the technical engineering architecture for a water company that will service Neom.
The sweeping effects of the “Gold Rush” at Neom has had a profound effect on the locals and for many this is a boom, a wave of opportunity with no prior comparison. Accommodation prices have skyrocketed, and almost all commodities have spiralled upwards in price and recreational pleasure boat owners and tour companies are doing a booming trade as significant numbers of newcomers and employees working in the area seek to explore Neom in their time off.
Once down in the doldrums rental property owners in the area from Duba to Magna, to Haql, and even into Tabuk city are bubbling over with enthusiasm now that rental accommodation is high in price and in demand, and it is difficult to find acceptable accommodation available at a reasonable price anywhere.
One thing is for certain: Neom is decidedly tangible and the actual on the ground development is staggering already and only going to increase.