Photo credit (banner): Jean-Pierre HUBER-GOUMONT

Boosting safety and comfort with “nudges”

“Nudge theory” is an innovative approach to behavioural change that we use to reduce incivility aboard trains and in stations. Here’s how it works.

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How “nudges” work

Nudges are small measures that encourage people to adopt more positive behaviours without forcing them to.

In other words, they manipulate you, but for your own good.

Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, the two American economists who developed nudge theory, point to the men’s toilets at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as a classic example. To encourage users to improve their aim, the image of a housefly was etched into each urinal. It worked: over time, cleanliness improved and maintenance costs fell.

Video : Le top 5 des nudges dans le groupe SNCF

How we’re using nudges in stations and aboard trains

We’re convinced that nudges can change behaviour, and for over three years we’ve experimented with a variety of them to improve mobility on our lines and make our stations more comfortable. Curious? Here are two examples of nudges that worked.

From unofficial urinal to playground

At Mureaux station, north-west of Paris, male passengers regularly used an outdoor area and an underground tunnel to relieve themselves. Eliminating entire puddles of urine was clearly going to take more than housefly etchings, so we worked with a social psychologist to find a solution.

We ultimately converted the outdoor area into a playground, and decorated the tunnel with visuals to discourage passengers from using it as an unofficial urinal. Bottom line: the project cost €80,000 and reduced anti-social behaviour by around 88%.

We expect our stations in Grigny, Corbeil-Essonnes and Melun—all in the Paris Region—to begin using a similar nudge in the near future.

A novel approach to unattended luggage

When luggage is left unattended in our stations, it disrupts rail operations and causes significant delays—far more than you might think. Why is why we’re experimenting with a nudge at Paris Nord station (RER commuter line B) and at Saint-Roch station in Montpellier.

In both stations, we’ve added visuals to catch passengers’ attention and remind them to keep luggage secure. We also make regular announcements urging everyone to keep an eye on their belongings and say something if they see a fellow passenger leaving an item behind. Result: the number of people who speak up has risen from 12% to 42%.

Video : Transilien à la pointe du nudge