SNCF has been stepping up its transition into the digital age of late and now is taking an even bigger step forward. This past Friday, Fleur Pellerin and transport minister Frédéric Cuvillier announced a range of new digital initiatives that SNCF would put into place in the coming months. The biggest announcement was that by the end of the year, riders will have free wifi access at 100 train stations. Dramatically improving France’s digital infrastructure, including such initiatives as “high-speed internet for all” by 2017, has long been a key point of the government’s program so this move, naturally, is another important part of the plan.
However, the biggest leap forward, namely wifi in (at a minimum) high-speed trains is still a ways off. SNCF plans to progressively introduce wifi access on trains over the next three years and are, reportedly, working with telcos and equipment manufacturers to determine how to make this happen.
In addition to the wifi news, SNCF is also rolling out several other digital measures with the goal of modernizing and improving the travel experience for riders. They’ve announced that they’ll be putting in place a “garantie gare” (station guarantee) whereby if a rider notices a problem while at the station (cleanliness, disturbance, equipment that isn’t functioning properly, etc), they can immediately alert SNCF of the problem via using a QR Code or sending an SMS. Once the problem is resolved, the rider will be notified directly. SNCF will also be rolling out a ‘playing wall’, which will enable customers to download multimedia content (music, books, etc) in advance of their departure and expanding their ‘WE-bikes’, energy-generating stationary bikes where riders can recharge their mobile devices.
Lastly, by end-2013 they’ll also be rolling out more broadly their free ‘Gare 360’ application which enables travellers to virtually visit 112 train stations throughout France, giving them access to HD panoramic views of each station. This application is particularly useful for riders who want to prepare the logistics of their trip ahead of time as it also provides in-depth information on local transport or other services at their destination.