Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RFI), the manager of Italy’s railway infrastructure, has awarded British Steel two multi-million-pound contracts to supply it 86kt of rail.

The agreements – including the delivery of 18kt of its unique premium Stress-Free (SF) heat treated rail – follow on from two other major deals British Steel has secured with national rail operators in the UK.

In September, Network Railannounced it was extending its supply contract with the company for two years and in OctoberInfrabel, which operates Belgium’s railways, signed a four-year agreement.

Richard Bell, British Steel’s commercial director for rail, said he was delighted to have been awarded these contracts which, he said, reflected ‘the excellent working relationship we have with national rail operators like Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RFI) and our ongoing commitment to delivering high quality rail in Italy’.

According to Bell, for each agreement with RFI, Network Rail and Infrabel, British Steel had to go through a rigorous tendering process. These contracts are excellent demonstrations of our ability to provide first class products and services in highly competitive markets,” he said.

Of British Steel’s latest contracts with RFI, one is for 68kt of standard grade rail and the other is for 18kt of premium heat-treated SF350 rails. Both deals are for rail in lengths of 108 metres.

The premium SF heat-treated rails are designed for use in curved or heavy haul tracks where wear and fatigue are significant issues, explained British Steel. View a video about our SF rails here.

“Our SF range is increasingly popular as rail is being asked to perform for longer in heavier traffic,” Bell said.

“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,” Bell continued.

“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 first made its premium heat treated rail in 1984 and has since supplied more than 1Mt across six continents – enough to build a railway from London to Beijing.

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

British Steel’s SF rails are claimed to deliver a typical 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 showed that to achieve the same fatigue life (5 million cycles) British Steel’s SF rail can withstand 67% more fatigue stress than conventionally heat-treated rails.