Late trains, cancelled trains, overpricing, and technical problems in the cabins… in France, more than five million daily SNCF users find themselves without clear information about the state of traffic in real time. A victim of these repetitive problems on the line Nancy-Metz-Luxembourg, Jonathan Jean, a student at Epitech, decided to take things into his own hands by creating a collaborative info app: RailZ.
(Featured Image: Jonathan Jean, Corentin Grandmaire et Marceau Tonelli created an app to help people get real-time traffic information / Image Credit © RailZ)
Winner of SNCF’s “Sprint Information Voyageur” Competition
Created at the start of 2017, RailZ took home first prize from SNCF’s Sprint Information Voyageur, a competition designed to promote new products and services capable of transforming and revolutionizing SNCF’s client communications. About the same time, two other Epitech students, Marceau Tonelli and Corentin Grandmaire, joined Jonathan to develop the application. “We hope to help people on a daily basis,” explained Jonathan. After seeing over 4,000 votes from Nancy-Metz-Luxembourg line users over nine months, RailZ spread across the Pentagon this month.
“RailZ allows everyday users to correct and enrich often inaccurate SNCF information in real time. A user knows what to expect and can count on the community of everyday travelers.”
A collaborative free application
“We are currently at 25,000 users! The original Metz-Luxembourg is still the most popular, but we have drawn up an inventory of potential for heavy usage on the lines around Lyon and Paris, the lines near Grenoble, Toulouse and Picardie since the app’s national deployment,” indicated RailZ’s founder. The entirely free application doesn’t even require an account—just a downloadable app available on iOS and Android. Users benefit from information provided by other users, who also fill in incomplete traffic information communicated by SNCF. “In addition to info on late and cancelled trains, RailZ allows users to publish a range of information relative to passenger comfort such as heating & air-conditioning problems, crowding, out-of-service doors, etc.—in other words, important information that SNCF does not provide online.
Creating an account essentially allows a user to become a RailZ community actor by adding his/her information. Users can also input their favorite routes and receive relevant notifications. “On the Metz-Luxembourg line, travelers at the Thionville station, for example, can take the better decisions thanks to RailZ. They receive information on traffic, train composition and technical problems in the cabins, all provided by travelers who get on at Metz. If, for example, someone posts about a single-row train before arriving at Thionville, a traveler at the station can decide to pass until a larger train arrives. That way they avoid an uncomfortable ride!” explained Jonathan Jean.
The three cofounders will be students at Epitech for two more years, and plan to continue developing their application on the side. But that’s not limiting them: the school is heavily supportive. The administration gives them some leeway on their classes, has equiped them with the school network and all the practical help they need to realize the project. “All three of us are developers and develop the app without needing to outsource. In terms of communication, we use social media to avoid sponsoring. It’s natural marketing. Word to mouth is also working very well for us,” specified Jonathan Jean. It’s in this way that the startup keeps total independence, and the three developers keep all authority on the application.
News and business model
“With so many strikes going on in SNCF, user solidarity thanks to RailZ creates a way to better manage these somewhat chaotic times. As a result, we expect a spike in usage in April and June,” continued Jonathan. The team is currently thinking about developing partnerships with certain structures that could benefit from RailZ data, especially data concerning routes and users. RailZ also envisions creating questionnaires placed directly into the application. “We are currently working with the Grand Nancy Metropolis, who is interested in our data on punctuality,” revealed Jonathan Jean. “With RailZ, we want to facilitate your life and the lives of other users.”
— RailZ (@RailzApp) April 2, 2018