British Steel, the Scunthorpe-based manufacturer of steel rails and other long-length steel products, has won two contracts to supply 86,000 tonnes of rail to Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RFI), Italy’s rail infrastructure manager.

One of the new contracts is for 68,000 tonnes of its standard grade rail and the other for 18,000 tonnes of British Steel’s premium heat-treated SF350 rails. The premium SF heat-treated rails are designed for use in curved or heavy haul tracks where wear and fatigue are significant issues.

Both deals are for rail in lengths of 108 metres.

This Italian success follows hard on the heels of two other contracts that were announced at the InnoTrans exhibition in Berlin in September. Network Rail confirmed it was extending its supply contract with the company for two years and Infrabel, which operates Belgium’s railways, signed a four-year agreement.

British Steel’s commercial director for rail, Richard Bell, commented: “Our SF range is increasingly popular as rail is being asked to perform for longer in heavier traffic.

“We developed ‘stress-free’ heat-treated rail to address the industry needs for high resistance to wear, rolling contact fatigue and improved foot fatigue performance to extend the service life of rail and thereby reduce the whole life cost.

“Products like this reduce the need for costly and lengthy maintenance and replacement programmes thereby maximising track availability and allowing trains to run for longer – major benefits for operators and their customers.”

British Steel’s stress-free heat treated rail.

The steel for the SF heat-treated rails is manufactured at British Steel’s headquarters in Scunthorpe, England. It is then sent to the company’s state-of-the-art rail rolling facility in Hayange, France where it is rolled into rails and further strengthened using a special heat treatment process that uses inductive heating, followed by cooling using compressed air, in one continuous movement. This process is so tightly controlled that, unlike competitors, no roller-straightening is required afterwards, resulting in a more durable ‘stress-free’ rail.

Typically, British Steel’s SF rails deliver a threefold increase in the defect size needed to initiate fatigue in the rail foot compared to standard R350HT rails. If fatigue does start, the low residual stress in SF350 doubles the lifetime to failure, compared to standard on-line/in-line heat treatment methods.

Test results have shown that, to achieve the same fatigue life of five million cycles, British Steel’s SF rail can withstand 67 per cent more fatigue stress than conventionally heat-treated rails.

British Steel’s rail distribution hub in Lecco, northern Italy.

British Steel opened a rail logistics hub in Lecco, in northern Italy, last year to service local demand. It can provide a full range of high quality long length rail with just-in-time, and reliable, delivery anywhere in the country.