Photo credit (banner): Laurent Mayeux

We’re harnessing new technologies to make rail more digital, more connected—and ever more customized.

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Customer needs: where innovation begins

At SNCF, innovation always begins with meeting the needs of passengers and shippers. Customer satisfaction is our priority—and it’s how we measure success as we propose and test new ideas for transport and operations.

With you in mind, we’re developing mobility solutions that:

  • make our services safer and more secure 
  • make our system more robust and improve on-time performance
  • serve everyone, including low-density communities
  • are tailored to the diverse new habits of our customers

To make the rail system more reliable, more effective and more eco-friendly than ever, we work with a wide range of partners—start-ups, giant industrials, local communities, and stakeholders in institutions and academia. In every case, the aim is to identify and deploy emerging technologies.

Innovation at work

We use new technologies to craft tailored responses to customer needs. Some of these solutions are already raising service quality and reshaping job categories at SNCF.

For example, we’re focusing more and more on predictive maintenance to supplement corrective maintenance—a move that’s fully consistent with our effort to digitalize SNCF Group.

Learn more about predictive maintenance

Building the rail system of the future

Our aim is to serve customers by developing a rail system that’s competitive, agile, sustainable, and fully integrated with tomorrow’s mobilities.

To reach this goal, we’ll need to make fundamental changes:

  • simplifying infrastructure
  • taking a more integrated approach to managing all forms of traffic 
  • increasing automation
  • boosting energy efficiency
  • designing infrastructure and trains to be modular and cost-efficient
  • enriching the customer experience 
  • building multimodality into new offers

Over the short, medium and long term, we’re building the rail system of the future in France and other European countries, through partnerships grounded in openness and innovation. Tomorrow’s rail system will rely on 3 closely related components: connected trains, a connected network, and connected stations.

The challenges ahead

To meet the challenges of tomorrow, we need a more digitalized, more connected rail system.

We’ll make this leap through a wide range of technological advances, including accurate, continuous train tracking, digitalized signalling and standardized onboard interfaces. Other breakthroughs include transforming level crossings into smart intersections and connecting them with autonomous road vehicles.

There’s a lot at stake. Step by step, we must:

  • enhance and optimize network capacity
  • improve availability
  • manage passenger traffic and data more skilfully, to improve the system’s performance
  • reduce the cost of investment and operations
  • increase safety
  • play a significant role in building an interoperable European rail system

Learn more about train tracking

Learn more about connected level crossings

Smart trains

The industrial Internet holds tremendous promise for the rail sector. Potential benefits include fewer breakdowns, better on-time performance, lower maintenance costs, higher energy efficiency, more effective use of rail fleets and an enriched customer experience.

With more and more interactive equipment on board, connected trains can meet these expectations and more—and compete more effectively with other modes of transport.

Film innovation - Trains intelligents

Driverless trains

Experiments with autonomous trains have already taken automation to new heights. Key capabilities include detecting obstacles, reading signals, geolocation, monitoring trains and their surroundings, and responding to unexpected events.

With safety as our absolute priority, we’re working with the Railenium Test and Research Centre (IRT) and partners in industry to develop two different models for driverless trains:

  • one for Fret SNCF freight operations, developed with Alstom, Altran, Hitachi and Apsys, and
  • another for TER regional passenger rail, developed by Bombardier, Bosch, SpirOps and Thales

We plan to have fully automated prototypes running by 2023, with scale-up slated to begin in 2025.

Learn more about autonomous trains

TGV M

Our new TGV M is packed with ground-breaking innovations to enrich the customer experience. Fully modular and 100% connected, it consumes 20% less energy yet carries 20% more passengers. Designed by top experts at Voyages SNCF and Alstom, this eco-friendly high-speed train is set for rollout in 2024.

Aboard this new 4th-generation TGV, you’ll have access to adaptable connected services and comprehensive, real-time information that’s accessible in every area of the train. Behind the scenes, continuous transmission of data on the trainset’s components will let us practice preventive maintenance.

Learn more about the TGV M

97 %

of the TGV M’s materials are recyclable

Next-generation train tracking

Accurate, continuous train tracking is critical to creating a Europe-wide rail system for the future. This new technology—now in the experimental stage under our Tech4Rail2 programme—should let us operate more trains on the same stretch of track and eliminate physical signalling equipment. That in turn will boost on-time performance and cut costs substantially. 

Better train tracking technology will also improve passenger information and play a key role in other advances, such as driverless trains and connected level crossings.

Learn more about train tracking

The margin of error for train tracking is 100 times smaller than for air transport.

Smart, connected freight

Fret SNCF and Traxens, a Marseille-based start-up, have developed a digital freight train based entirely on IOT1 technology—a world first for rail freight.

A network with sensors and relay boxes is installed in each wagon, transmitting critical real-time intelligence on each shipment. The digital freight train provides geolocation and geofencing data, along with information on shipping conditions, unexpected impacts, stops and movements, and more.

Learn more about the Digital Freight Train

Predictive maintenance—innovating to boost performance

By installing IOT1 sensors on our trains and infrastructure and developing algorithms to analyse the data they transmit, we’ve brought increased reliability and on-time performance to your travel experience. We can now determine dates for 100 different types of breakdowns with 95% reliability, to step in before something goes wrong.

Learn more

Connected network

As the manager of France’s rail network, SNCF Réseau relies on innovative technologies to optimize both traffic operations and maintenance of the nation’s 30,000 km of track. Using digital tools, drones, connected sensors, artificial intelligence and more, we’re delivering high performance today while transforming the system to meet the needs of tomorrow.

We’re already building the rail network of the future, with predictive maintenance, real-time management of traffic incidents and state-of-the-art signalling. These innovations will move us towards multiple goals—increasing the number of trains in operation, improving on-time performance and passenger information, and continuing to deliver the highest level of safety.

Learn more about innovation at SNCF Réseau

Film innovation - Réseau connecté

Digitalizing to expand our offer

To create a smarter, better-performing network, we’re spearheading a range of projects based on telecommunications and digital technology. They include ERTMS, CCR centralized network control technology, GOC 2.0 traffic management, Argos computer-controlled interlocking, the NExTEO communication-based train control system, and digital twinning. These new tools incorporate cutting-edge technologies. And as we roll them out on the French network, we’re expanding our rail offer.

Learn more

Connected level crossings

Autonomous and semi-autonomous road vehicles raise a number of safety and communication issues for rail infrastructure, particularly level crossings. That’s why we launched the Smart Intersection project in 2017. Its goal is to enable level crossings to communicate with the increasing numbers of connected, autonomous vehicles that will soon be on the road.

Experiments under our Tech4Rail2 programme have shown that a connected vehicle can communicate with a level crossing using a transmission module with GPS antennas, WiFi and 4G. New testing under more complex conditions is now underway.

Learn more about our Smart Intersection project

Telecommunications and performance

Telecommunications are vital to rail operations—for the simple reason that rolling stock needs a constant flow of data to operate safely on the network. But they can also be used in a vast range of applications, which makes them a powerful strategic asset and performance driver for rail. Amid the profound changes sweeping our sector, we must always be ready to address new use cases that demand complex shifts in technology.

Learn more about our Telecommunications and IOT research programme

Connected stations

Because we serve 10 million passengers at 3,000 stations on our network every day, high-quality service and reliable facilities are top priorities. To meet these goals, we’re simultaneously modernizing our stations and accelerating our ecological transition—which means that digital technology has a powerful role to play in transforming our rail facilities and work processes.

Smart Station

Behind the walls of a connected station, thousands of data points are collected and transmitted by hundreds of sensors and probes installed throughout the building. Connected systems—electrical cabinets, boarding gates, elevators, escalators and more—keep station facilities operating at their best.

Whenever there’s a malfunction or power failure, the information is relayed and analysed in real time by a surveillance app. Thanks to centralized monitoring of our stations, we can improve passenger comfort and satisfaction, and our employees can solve problems faster.

The Smart Station project, developed by our subsidiary SNCF Gares & Connexions, has been trialled in 8 pilot locations and is now being scaled up. By 2023, it will be deployed in 579 stations.

Smart station, la gare connectée

1 The IOT is the Internet of Things, the network of physical objects and places that are connected to the Internet. 

2 The Tech4Rail programme is SNCF Group’s rail innovation accelerator.