French national rail service SNCF has launched a new smartphone app which aims to combine all the different elements of train travel in a bid to simplify the system for passengers.
SNCF Connect has been created to streamline the previously fragmentary nature of planning a train journey in France, enabling passengers to book and manage local, long-distance and some international journeys.
Until now, passengers have had to book tickets through the website/app Oui.sncf, although they have also had the option to reserve some routes through the Assistant SNCF app, which is mainly dedicated to traffic updates.
The Oui.sncf platform will now gradually become unavailable as it is replaced by SNCF Connect. The Assistant SNCF app is still working and no details have been given of whether this will remain.
SNCF Connect enables customers to:
- Search for routes with details on stops and connections
- Buy tickets for TGV Inoui, Ouigo, Intercités, TER, Thalys, Eurostar, TGV Lyria and Ile-de-France services
- Buy ticket for Flixbus coaches and BlaBlaCar
- Hire a car with Avis
- Reserve a taxi or car-share
- Combine various different types of ticket – train and coach for example – for one journey
- Read updates on network traffic, disruptions and delays
- Manage journeys by making exchanges, requesting refunds, claiming back fares or cancelling tickets
- Browse and buy season tickets or advantage cards
There are also plans for passengers to be able to hire electric scooters and bikes and pay for bus tickets using the app as well at a later stage.
Lancement de SNCF Connect➡️ Christophe Fanichet, PDG de SNCF Voyageurs : "C'est un tout-en-un. On y retrouve les trains TER, TGV, Intercités et les trains internationaux. (...) C'est un véritable défi, il y a plus de 100 millions d'itinéraires possibles" pic.twitter.com/2pFr3MnxgZ— franceinfo (@franceinfo) January 25, 2022
“Today, we have SNCF apps which are focused on certain uses, on certain target clients,” said Anne Pruvot, who headed the project. “We are not opposed to the continuation of these practices, but we want to ensure that users do not have to stop and think before knowing which app to open.
“By opening SNCF Connect, you will have all of the functionalities there before you.”
The new app does not, however, display tickets for journeys operated by SNCF’s competitors, which include Trenitalia on the Paris-Lyon-Milan line. This could mean that people look elsewhere to buy their tickets, using alternative apps such as Trainline.
“In concrete terms, when we have a million itinerary requests each day, we are capable of proposing many things to the user in terms of the convenience of different routes, associated offers, all of it fuelled by artificial intelligence,” said Benoît Bouffart, the director of tech and products at SNCF Connect.
“The app will be capable of acting on behalf of the client: 20% of functions will be automated , such as the addition of a travel card to an order for example.”
Passengers will also be able to view the number of seats available in the train for the first time, something which was “highly anticipated,” SNCF Voyageurs CEO Christophe Fanichet has said.
“Our customers wanted the best price. They will not only have the best price but also the number of seats remaining at this price. This will of course allow people to complete their purchases even more quickly.”
SNCF has stressed that the app is only active when it is being used, in order to reduce its battery consumption.
The added ease that the new platform will bring comes as part of a bid to encourage people in France to travel by train, “because, as everyone knows, rail is the most ecological mode of transport,” said Mr Fanichet.
SNCF Connect is free and can be accessed through the iOS or Android app stores or online, and will also be downloaded if you update your existing Oui.sncf app, which will soon be phased out.
Testing out SNCF Connect
We downloaded SNCF Connect to test it out. The app’s introductory presentation was short and straightforward, and allows you to progress through to its services without having to create an account.
One member of The Connexion’s team who tried out the app attempted several times to log in to their SNCF account through the app before realising that it was possible to access the main content without doing so.
It took several attempts before the app recognised our journalist’s email address, which was correctly typed.
Otherwise, the ticket reservation page was clear and fast, and the app will keep any half-finished orders in your basket for a few minutes if you need to go back to check something.
If you encounter any problems there is an instant messenger chat, which may be able to provide you with assistance.
Another useful feature is the ‘Favourites’ section, which enables you to save routes, station timetables and addresses to your home screen.
In this way, you can avoid searching the same journeys every time you wish to buy train tickets, and simply tap on your frequently travelled routes.
As well as enabling you to reserve tickets, the app allows you to enter two different addresses, calculating the quickest route between them. For example, if you are travelling between two Paris locations, SNCF Connect may tell you to walk a few hundred metres – including a map of your route – then get on the Métro for a certain number of stops before walking again.
If you are in Paris, you also have the option to top up your Navigo card through the app, by holding it up to the back of your phone.
This door-to-door feature also enables you to work out international journeys, for example if you were travelling from France to Italy, although you will not be able to book tickets by different train operators through the app.