What documents must you carry on French train to avoid a fine?

Two passengers were recently fined for not being able to show valid ID proof

A ticket is not enough: You must also be able to prove your ID and proof of any discount on board SNCF trains
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Debate recently erupted in France over the documents passengers on trains must carry with them to prove their ID and avoid a fine after two travellers reported being handed large fines for not having the right document.

The two SNCF passengers separately posted on social media to share their anger at receiving the fines.

This included one who held a season ticket between Tours-Paris and who was fined €120 - rising to €170 for non-payment - after he failed to show accepted ID proof when asked to do so on the train. This was despite him being able to show his passport photo page on his phone.

Another user, Alexane Chokoté, who was travelling from Paris to Lille, reported a similar issue. 

She was fined after she was not able to show a valid photo ID to a ticket inspector despite her showing a smartphone photo of her ID card, as well as her physical transport cards, her workplace card, and carte Vitale. 

She also called her parents so they could confirm her ID card via video but the “inspectors persisted in their refusal to consider the situation as a whole”, she said, denouncing the incident as an “enormous injustice” on her LinkedIn page.

What are the rules on ID on trains? 

The inspectors are actually acting within SNCF rules. 

On its website, the train company states that during a ticket check or when requested by an SNCF inspector, passengers must show:

  • A validated ticket, or smartphone ticket if it is an electronic ticket

  • Proof of discount if used (for example, a season ticket or rail card)

  • A valid identity document

The requirement for ID is also stated in Article L2241-10 of the French Transport Code. This stipulates that “passengers are required, when asked by the transport company, to present a document attesting to their identity in order to check that it matches the identity stated on their ticket”.

What forms of physical ID are acceptable? 

As well as a physical French ID card, if you have one, you can also show a:

  • A passport

  • Carte de séjour (residence permit)

  • Receipt valid as proof of identity, issued in exchange for the documents proving identity - for example, if you are in the process of renewing your ID card and it has not come through yet

In its terms and conditions, SNCF makes it clear that “the passenger in whose name the e-ticket is issued must be able to present a valid identity document with a photo: either an identity card, a passport or a carte de séjour (residence permit)”.

A carte Vitale, a driving licence (whether a French, UK, or other), birth certificate, electoral card, or other forms of ID are not valid for SNCF trains (even if they are accepted by other companies).

SNCF has also previously told consumer association 60 Millions de Consommateurs that photos or scans of identity documents are not accepted.

Digital French ID cards are not accepted even though they have been available on smartphones in France since February 14 this year. SNCF has said it is working to see if these might be accepted as ID later this year. 

What if I believe I received a fine unfairly? 

Any fine issued by SNCF can be contested within three months via SNCF’s dedicated website, and you can also make a complaint

The company told BFMTV that in Ms Chokoté’s case, she will be “reimbursed (for her fine) when she can provide proof of physical ID”. 

If you are still not able to come to a satisfactory solution, you can request that the SNCF ombudsman step in to mediate.