Riyadh: Smart cards to pass through passport control have been launched at two major airports in the kingdom and will soon be available for citizens and expatriate travellers at other airports in the country.

This was the announcement made by Lieutenant General Salim Mohammad Al Blaihid, Director-General of the Passports Department, at a press conference here.

Al Blaihid said the computerised cards will be free of charge. They can currently be used at five gates at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh and four gates at King Fahd International Airport in Dammam.

The Director-General of the Passports Department said the next stage will be to make the cards available at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah. They will then be implemented at all other airports in the kingdom. There will be no registration forms needed for users of the cards and they can only be used at airports.

The cards will be granted to all citizens and expatriates. No one will be excluded from this project except those who have committed security offences, said Al Blaihid.

Digital map service

He said the cards will be made available at airports and various markets. Al Blaihid disclosed that training courses are being held for Directorate General of the Passports Department staff to deal with the public

Every pilgrim, on arrival at any of the kingdom's airports, seaports or border posts, will receive a digital smart card with all information of the pilgrim saved on it, the General Cars Syndicate also told reporters yesterday.

A digital map service will also be launched to monitor buses on the internet and detect technical glitches, breakdowns, and if buses are abiding by the routes assigned to them. This is to keep a check on the performance of 17 transport companies that are providing 19,000 buses during this Haj season.

Through these measures, the Syndicate aims to reduce bus breakdowns and the time required for repairs, as well as streamlining the movement of pilgrims between Makkah, Madina and the holy sites.

The Syndicate plans to operate 120,000 trips for pilgrims between the holy sites and Makkah and Madina during the pilgrimage season. The plan will be put into operation by nearly 30,000 supervisors, members of administrative and technical committees, drivers and maintenance workers.

The focus of the Syndicate's new transport plan is to ensure pilgrims perform their Haj rites with ease, comfort and peace of mind. Authorities are making use of the latest means of technology to streamline the process of receiving and correctly dispatching pilgrims to their residences.