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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

SNCF's new service - trains that don't run on time

It's the sort of story which, if you had heard it a month earlier, you would have probably put down to being an April Fool.

But it isn't.

French railways has come up with a somewhat novel approach to marketing and customer satisfaction - flexible or variable departure times on some of its routes.

In other words, trains that don't leave when scheduled.



Perhaps it's called thinking outside of the box - or some might consider it "not thinking at all" - because SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer français or the French National Railway Corporation) is offering travellers what it calls a new "service" - tickets on trains that might - or might not - run on time.

So what does this miracle approach to customer service offer exactly?

Well, it'll allow passengers to buy tickets on 30 intercity Téoz and highspeed TGV routes for trains that will leave 15 minutes before or after their scheduled departure time.

Customers who've bought such tickets will be informed seven days beforehand via email or text message about the exact departure time.

It's all part of SNCF's attempt to reduce the number of cancellations and unscheduled delays - by building planned ones into its timetable - and is a way of coping with necessary track maintenance work, according to Barbara Dalibard, the director of SNCF Voyages.

"Track renovation will take some time - several years," she told France 2 television.

"We cannot exclude the possibility that the service will be extended," she added - somewhat ominously.

The scheme has already been tested on some lines and will be extended in a couple of weeks time to include routes such as Paris-Toulouse, Strasbourg-Bordeaux, Lille-Toulouse and Paris-Dijon.

And the incentive for passengers in terms of price?

Well there isn't one.

Tickets will cost exactly the same as trains scheduled to leave on time.

The only benefit perhaps is to be able to book a ticket earlier but not necessarily knowing what time you'll be leaving.

Brilliant isn't it!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nothing new there. I thought French trains were always late.

Anonymous said...

Well here in India, French railways have the reputation of being high tech and being punctual. But this is according to Indian standards, which perhaps don't mean much to Europeans!

Pratab, Bangalore, India

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