Less than 90 days to implement free transport in Strasbourg

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In line with the Mobility Orientation Law, which aims to make "daily transportation easier, less expensive and cleaner”, and following the June 2020 municipal elections, in early 2021 Strasbourg City Hall decided to implement free public transportation for young people under the age of 18 living within the city. 

The project was entrusted to the Compagnie des Transports Strasbourgeois (CTS) with a dual challenge: to deploy a sustainable, but also streamlined, system in an extremely tight timeline due to a constrained political calendar. This was a major challenge that led the CTS to call on Sopra Steria to help them develop a solution that would be fully operational by the deadline.  

Three months was all the CTS teams had to develop a fully operational system. They set out with the ambitious goal to open up subscription applications to 83,000 eligible people by June 2021, so that free travel could take effect on 1 September 2021. 

"Our objective was to have a simple, effective solution that could be delivered quickly. But the project also involved an important consideration, that the system was accessible for all our customers. Health measures at the time due to Covid-19  meant that the application process couldn’t be done in-branch, so we had to opt for a fully digital, streamlined and automated process", explains Alain Caffart, Director of Digital Transformation at the Compagnie des Transports Strasbourgeois.


This would require a completely new process involving automated recognition, reading and extraction of data on customer documents (identity card, passport, residence permit, proof of address, etc.).

Excellence and expertise at pace

CTS knew that it would be extremely challenging to implement change to several phases of revenue generation within such a tight timeframe, and that in order to deploy an operational solution at pace, they would need the support of a transformation partner. This partner needed to be a systems and ticketing expert with demonstrable experience of delivering similar time-critical, complex projects involving a multitude of stakeholders.

Furthermore, implementing free public transport would require extensive technical capability – the development of mobile and online applications as well as their maintenance; involving key players such as automation experts, the CTS sales and communications departments, the innovation department, ticketing experts, back office managers, the web and mobile team as well as many more.

With all of this in mind, CTS decided that Sopra Steria was the right fit as its partner for this challenge. "We have been working together since 2012. Their support on our contactless smartphone ticketing project meant that they already had in-depth knowledge of our business and our eco-system. We were sure we could count on both their delivery excellence and expertise to deliver what we needed on time," says Alain Caffart.

Agility and collaboration with the service user at the heart of design  

From the mobilisation of the CTS business teams, to the production launch, Sopra Steria's teams helped with key decisions and milestones throughout, with close collaboration between client and partner. 

For example they helped solve certain complexities relating to the management of the cards and the automated processing of files, among many other things.  A critical issue resolved was that any erroneous reading of an identity document could lead to a false positive, so the teams had to ensure this eventuality wouldn’t happen. And an unforeseen challenge that arose during the course of the project was the requirement to integrate Kehl residents under the age of 18 as eligible for free transport, following an agreement between the city of Kehl and the city of Strasbourg. 

"The CTS project manager carried out the acceptance phase directly on our premises, which made this stage much easier. And our teams worked together 3 days a week. This is one of the most agile projects I've seen, with a very high level of engagement and collaboration on both sides," says Laurent Burger, Director of the Digital Services Center at Sopra Steria Est.


60,000 applications processed on time

The challenge was met. The card application website has been operational since mid-June 2021. On the very first day, the site recorded 2,025 requests. In total, 60,000 applications were processed, including 26,000 card creations, and 83% of the eligible demographic in Strasbourg have applied.

"The challenge was that we had to develop a permanent solution which would add steps to the process of requesting a ticket on our website, without disrupting user experience. But despite the very short deadlines, we set up, on the advice of Sopra Steria, a gradual ramp-up with real test customers: CTS employees on the one hand, and volunteers among our existing customers on the other. This way of doing things has proved to be very successful," continues Alain Caffart.


A simple and effective user experience

Amongst the main achievements of the project are: a test phase with CTS employees that allowed for a debugging before the commercial launch, all cards were sent out on time, with users fully adhering to the online application process - 90% of applications were processed digitally, from the website or the mobile application. 

It now takes only 2 to 3 minutes to process a file online, compared to the previous 20 to 30 minutes with paper documents. The automated process has also simplified and streamlined the user experience - applications are now validated the same day followed by confirmation to the applicant the next day. This is a vast improvement on the previous system where applicants would normally have to wait several weeks before hearing the outcome of their application. 

"We have been able to significantly improve the quality and accuracy of all the information retrieved, resulting in fewer calls to our customer service department. The results are positive in all parts of the new process," concludes Alain Caffart.

The next phase of the project, from October 2021, will be the automated recognition of documents sent in support of subscription discount requests. 

The success of this transformation programme has meant that the City of Strasbourg and the CTS  have not only made it easier for young people and children to apply to travel for free around the city, but have also set the bar for other French cities and their transport networks.