Digital for all now

#DigitalSNCF: Full speed ahead for digitalising the SNCF’s services

Econocom 18 Feb 2015

3G and 4G onboard trains and in stations, digital project incubators, hackathons, smartphone apps… The French national railways, SNCF, is looking to improve the digital services it provides its 10 million clients (15 million by 2020) by giving itself a major digital overhaul. #DigitalSNCF, the programme supporting the digital transition, was unveiled on 10 February 2015 at a press conference held by the SNCF’s chairman, Guillaume Pepy, and his Digital and Communications Director, Yves Tyrode.


Tweet Axelle Lemaire

SNCF: can we talk about Wi-Fi on trains? Thanks ;-)


Did this tweet posted by the French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs prompt the SCNF’s digital transition? Not necessarily. The French national railways has been very digitally-oriented for the past fifteen years. The first wave, from 2000 to 2010, saw the beginning of e-commerce with the ticket booking site, launched in 2000, then iDTGV, a subsidiary that sells high-speed train tickets and SNCF’s first 100% digital product, in 2005. The next five years saw the advent of the SNCF’s second digital phase: that of the mobile app. By 2011, it had established itself as a pioneer of open data with the launch of a series of hackathons and digital exchange newsrooms and platforms designed to promote e-transparency. The project was a success, with 10 million people currently downloading SNCF apps and an eTicket sold every three seconds.



“Digital is central to our business as a rail travel provider. It is now the main driver for changing the company and goes way beyond eCommerce and customer relations.”

For Guillaume Pepy, digital technology should be leveraged to improve efficiency and quality of service delivered by SNCF. The company’s digital transformation is already underway, thanks to the arrival of Yves Tyrode, Digital and Communications Director.


For this digital expert, making employees’ job easier and providing clients with simple tools to get information and prepare for their journeys are at the top of his list of priorities, which is why, a few weeks ago, he launched the SNCF app which unifies all the existing travel apps.

“Digital begins with high-speed mobile internet access”

Axelle Lemaire’s tweet made an impact. Like her, two out of three passengers own a smartphone and have lamented the lack of onboard internet access. As far as Yves Tyrode is concerned, the solution to this problem is not Wi-Fi but having 3 and 4G available in all the trains and stations. In order to achieve this, SNCF will be working with ARCEP (Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques et des postes, an independent French agency in charge of regulating telecommunications in France, Ed) and the country’s four main internet service providers to deploy network antennae and Wi-Fi on the TGV tracks and at some of the busier train stations.


“Co-construction”: THE KEY TO THE SNCF’S digital transformation

The SNCF won’t be implementing this digital mutation alone, but will be collaborating with the entire digital ecosystem. The schedule for this “co-construction” project, as Yves Tyrode calls it, involves:


• End of May 2015: open data. Companies will be able to buy real-time data on train times, changeovers, etc. The pricing system is designed to be clear and fair: free or cut-price for startups, higher rates for web multinationals.


• End of H1 2015: launch of, an application development platform to give internal and external developers support in using APIs and whereby users can rate the various projects.


• Creation of Digital SNCF ventures, a private equity fund of €30 million over three years to help the most promising startups implement the SNCF’s digital strategy.


MAJOR digital projects IMPLEMENTED AS OF H1 2015

In addition to the platform, SNCF will be rolling out other digital projects for both customers and employees:


• offers a range of services for customers (train information, booking tickets, etc.)


• to collect, structure and analyse data and thus monitor the company’s activity and improve customer service.


• Maintenance ré to ensure more accurate monitoring of the state of the railnetwork. SNCF agents are supplied with mobile tools to analyse and process data.


• Maintenance maté a tablet to ensure all the group’s maintenance staff have the right documents.


30,000 agents (ticket inspectors, train drivers, maintenance agents, line monitoring staff) currently have smartphones or tablets. Yves Tyrode initially plans to increase this number to 80,000 employees.



In Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Nantes and San Francisco, SNCF plans to set up startup accelerators to foster in-house and external talent (researchers, ergonomists, developers, etc.) and help them develop new ideas for mobile services. Dubbed 574 (after the world record for high speed train travel), these startup incubators/expertise centres will focus on four main areas: Big Data, open data and APIs, design, and the Internet of Things.


In order to monitor the implementation of this major digital programme, SNCF has set up a number of indicators which will be measured on a monthly basis:  customer and employee satisfaction rates, the number of apps submitted/approved/downloaded, high-speed mobile internet coverage, number of employees with tablets, and the size of the digital community.


The Digital and Communications Director’s message is clear: digital everything, for everyone! And by focusing on digital development, SNCF is proving to be a truly #digitalforallnow company!



See the full press conférence online: conférence de presse #digitalsncf [45 minutes, in French].


Photo credit: Toshihiro Gamo – Girl Waiting for The Train / 電車を待つ少女 ( / Licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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