Work spaces for nomadic workers in the heart of railway stations. This is the promise made by the SNCF (the French national railway company) and Regus, the world leader of flexible work spaces, when they concluded a partnership on Monday 21st November. Within two years, six of these centres will be created.
Winning over professional customers
“Train stations are not only made of concrete but also of services,” Guillaume Pépy, President of the SNCF, immediately states. He is setting up the project using a strategy aimed at attracting professional customers “so that high-speed trains may equal planes.” Here is an ambitious declaration of war to the air transport industry –to airline lounges particularly. Arms will be provided by Regus, which has been chosen after a request for proposals launched in April 2011. The SNCF, which is very active in the development of mobility-related offers, seemed to be neglecting professional travellers, who often ended up having to sit in a noisy and busy café or on a platform in a draught. It is a fact that whereas professional customers are being pampered on board trains nowadays, they are much less so in the heart of stations. “We realise that what our customers experience in railway stations is a chain of services that is, for the time being, incomplete and now we must improve its flow,” the boss of railway workers continues. In other words, the time spent in stations must be made useful. “In the end, we expect stations to become the new city centres and business customers to think that there is a real alternative here to air transport.”
Making time spent in stations useful
It is partly to fill in this gap that the railway company launched Gares & Connexions (Stations and Connections) three years ago. The railway company calculated that “75% out of the two billion people that pass through our stations every day do so for a job-related reason,” Sophie Boissard, managing director of this subsidiary, points out.
When they launched a call for interest in April 2010, Gares & Connexions was inspired by the Swiss model to set up shared work spaces in and not near stations anymore. The SNCF’s land assets in stations, which represent one million m2, remains in part commercially unexploited to this day. “In stations, we need all the services that can make travel time both rich and useful,” Sophie Boissard adds.
One million subscribers throughout the world already
Regus has thus been chosen this summer by the SNCF and committed itself to create work spaces in six French stations within 18 months. What will there be in these spaces ranging from 300 to 3,000 m2? Shared work spaces, business lounges, assembly or video-communication rooms, multilingual staff available for receptions and administrative support, telephones, printers, photocopiers, scanners… Whether you want to read your e-mails in-between two trains or rent a workspace for a week, everything is possible according to Mark Dixon, CEO of Regus, who banks on the flexibility and the wide range of opening hours of the premises. “For a long time, we have been offering flexible work spaces near stations and airports in order to provide mobile professionals with services enabling them to stay productive while travelling.” Indeed the company draws on a well-established network of 1,200 spaces throughout the world, 55 of which are located in France. Subscribers only will be given free access to these places. Non-subscribers will have to pay out an initiation fee that has not been determined yet. Is this an elitist partnership? “Contacts will be made between Regus and SNCF Voyages in order to include the offer in loyalty programmes. Eventually, frequent travellers will have access to these centres and to the whole Regus network,” Guillaume Pépy promises.
Photos credits: Regus
Translated by Oona Bijasson