Office: (44) (0) 5603 676623  |  Independent Communications Consultancy based Westminster, London SW1
Office: (44) (0) 5603 676623  |  Independent Communications Consultancy based Westminster, London SW1

Digital Communications Index: Tunisian Railways

MENA Railways Digital Communications Index: Tunisia

All images on this pages ©SNCFT unless otherwise stated.

Introduction

New SNCFT Tunisian Railways electric multiple unit

This post is more concerned with the digital communications of Tunisia’s railways than with its operations, but good communications should give a full picture of the operations in any case. One of the reasons for writing this series is to do a bit of armchair travelling, so I’m happy to report SNCFT promotes its activities and operations very well. I’ve learned a lot from them about the railways of one of the Arab world’s ‘quieter’ countries. I mean ‘quieter’ in a positive way and relative to other Arab countries, such as its neighbour Libya.

SNCFT operates passenger and freight services across a nationwide network of routes linking most major towns and cities with Tunis. Trains outside Tunis are mostly diesel-hauled with one electrified commuter line from Sousse to Mahdia (the 70km Coast/Sahel Metro). Lines north and west of Tunis are standard gauge while those south of Tunis are metre gauge. This leads to some people claiming SNCFT operates the fastest passenger trains on a metre gauge route anywhere in the world, on the mainline from Tunis to Sousse and Sfax. The Wikipedia entry for Tunisian railways is actually very good background reading but is outside the scope of this review.

SNCFT Arabic Homepage (click to enlarge)

SNCFT’s digital communications reflect all these activities with a sophisticated spread across most major platforms. Unlike most railway systems in this index it does offer a live-running checker to see how trains are running in real time. The primary activities are on the excellent website (which exists in 3 versions, Arabic, French and English) while the main engagement and live updates are on Facebook. The OuiSNCFT app offers live updates, notifications and even chat. So for the purposes of this MENA Railways Digital Communications Index SNCFT scores a superb 9/12. This score hides the fact that SNCFT only scores single points for its multiple websites, apps and Facebook pages!

1. Is there a website?

There is a very good website, updated just two years ago in 2018, and it comes in 3 language versions, namely:

It seems a shame to just award 1 point for this!

SNCFT French Homepage (click to enlarge)

2. Is the website ‘alive’?

Yes, so score 1 point. The website forms SNCFT’s central information and business hub, so passengers and freight customers alike can find useful information on it. Although there is no blog, there is a full history of this historic railway system, maps and a full list of stations. 

Navigation is easy, with 2 rows of navigation at the top of each page and different options are clearly distinguishable. As well as a comprehensive ‘About Us’ section, there are thorough sections for the three main passenger groupings (Mainline, Tunis Metro, Sahel Metro), general freight and phosphates. Visitors can buy tickets, season tickets and discount cards, and can check fares, timetables and live train running. 

This is a clear and useful website across all three languages so it seems a shame to have just a single point to give.

3. Is there an app?

SNCFT train from Tunisian Trains Facebook site (click to enlarge)

Yes, in fact there seem to be 3 apps all by developer Jemli Mohamed Ramzi and available for Android on Google Play. One is for members of the public and two are reserved for specific railway employees. All these together score just 1 point. 

  • OuiSNCFT: This scores a great 4.1 average from 62 app users with majority giving 5* reviews. It was updated as recently as April 2020 with good support by the developer. See here.
  • ControlesSNCFT: Access is reserved only for members of the following grades verified by the app’s administrator: SNCFT commercial agents (route controllers, train controllers & train inspectors), train drivers, railway safety officers, Main Line sales managers and the app’s developer and administrator. See here.
  • Solidarité Contrôleurs SNCFTSee here.

4. Can you buy tickets online?

Yes, this is a great facility, in Arabic, French and English, so score 1 point. 

5. Is there live running information?

Yes, this is the only railway in this series to offer live running information, as far as I can see. Score 1 point. 

6. Is there a Twitter account?

There is a Twitter account (@SNCFTOfficiel) but as it seems to have been active only between 2015 and 2018, it is of no practical use and I can’t give a point. Although it is linked from the website, it only tweeted 68 times and attracted just 134 followers.

7. Is there a Facebook page? 

Yes, and this is SNCFT’s main social media platform, linked from the website. It is really good and up-to-date so score 1 well-deserved point. SNCFT’s Facebook page has nearly 100,000 followers and posts regularly with timetable changes, videos, promotions and information, with all posts showing high levels of engagement. The Facebook page contains many photos and also 35 videos dating from 2012 to this year. 

SNCFT also runs a separate Facebook page for its passenger app OuiSNCFT (see the app section). The page is maintained up-to-date and has almost 1300 followers. Unfortunately under the scoring criteria I can’t give another point!

8. Is there a YouTube channel?

Yes, there is a SNCFTOfficiel YouTube channel set up in 2018 so score 1 point. There are 15 videos of various kinds dating from 2018-2019 but it seems rather quiet, especially in comparison to the Facebook page. Here’s a short explainer video in Arabic and French about new electric suburban trains:

9. Is there an Instagram account?

No

10. Can you subscribe to a newsletter?

No

11. Is there evidence of campaigns?

Yes, SNCFT runs a number of active campaigns. These relate to timetable changes (Winter, Summer and Ramadan), level crossing safety, new trains and, most recently, changes due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Score 1 point. 

12. Is there good overall engagement?

Yes, so score 1 point. The website caters for most people’s needs which itself shows a high degree of responsiveness to what passengers and freight customers need. The main engagement is apparent on the Facebook page(s). 

Conclusion

SNCFT’s digital communications give the appearance of a system that is committed to customer service, professional and on-the-ball. The only areas where it did not score was on the lack of a functioning Twitter account and the lack of a newsletter and Instagram. These are minor details compared with the major efforts SNCFT is undertaking on its other digital and social platforms. So in conclusion SNCFT scores a terrific and well-deserved 9/12. Well done. 

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