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  • 10/12/2020
  • Media Releases

SNCF RÉSEAU and LIBERTY France announce approval of first GREENSTEEL ‘green rails’

  • SNCF Réseau approves first GREENSTEEL rails, manufactured by LIBERTY Rail Hayange, for use on the French rail network
  • Rails are made from GREENSTEEL blooms produced at LIBERTY Ascoval and are produced with 90% lower CO2 than conventional rails
  • A significant first step in the development of a French and European GREENSTEEL rail sector

LIBERTY France, the French subsidiary of LIBERTY Steel Group, part of Sanjeev Gupta’s sustainable industry leader GFG Alliance, and SNCF Réseau today announced the safe and rapid approval for the deployment of Europe’s first GREENSTEEL rails on the French rail network.

This significant step demonstrates SNCF Réseau’s contribution to the establishment of a French “green rail” industrial sector to fully integrate the country’s railway infrastructure into a circular economy. The approval also marks the first step in achieving LIBERTY’s ambition for the recently-acquired LIBERTY Ascoval and LIBERTY Rail Hayange (previously France Rail Industry), which is to build a world class GREENSTEEL rail and rail services business with international reach.

The key focus for LIBERTY’s acquisition was to connect Ascoval with the Hayange rail mill so that together they become the leader in the provision of GREENSTEEL rails. This circular economy concept would see LIBERTY Ascoval melting recycled scrap steel, including recovered scrap rail from Hayange’s customers, in its electric arc furnace to produce large rectangular GREENSTEEL “blooms” which could then be rolled into rails at LIBERTY Rail Hayange.

This innovation was achieved shortly after the acquisition of LIBERTY Ascoval when its new modified caster line cast its first square “billet”. The €17 million modification, which was delivered on time and to budget despite COVID-19 complications, meant the high quality steelmaking equipment at Ascoval could be deployed to produce a new range of cross-sections, including blooms and billets, suitable for rolling into rails and other steel products in new markets. Due to these new products and a range of new customers, Ascoval is now running at higher capacity, with the strong prospect of adding more jobs in early 2021 as the plant expands its production.

The rail production specialists at Hayange worked closely with those from SNCF Réseau to manufacture a range of GREENSTEEL rails which will be used across the French railway network. This new production process reduces CO2 emissions by 90% with the traditional processes used in Europe for the production of rail steels. This environmental performance is mainly made possible by the use of the electric arc process, rather than the use of traditional blast furnaces. The manufacturing method of GREENSTEEL rails emits 180 kg of CO2 per tonne of steel compared to 1.8 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of steel using conventional blast furnaces. The goal is to make the rails completely carbon neutral by 2030, in line with the GFG Alliance’s mission to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

SNCF Réseau has carried out a comprehensive range of homologation tests on this new range of rails as well as a full audit of the LIBERTY Ascoval site. Once that homologation testing and audit work was completed, SNCF Réseau approved the use of the new GREENSTEEL rails across its French network. LIBERTY now expects to start developing a sustainable GREENSTEEL rail market, initially in France and then more widely across Europe, as rail operators make the transition to carbon neutral networks.

Commenting on the news, Sanjeev Gupta, Executive Chairman of GFG Alliance and LIBERTY Steel Group, said: “Today is a great step forwards for LIBERTY Steel’s ambitions in France. Our vision is to build a world class rail and rail services business with international reach, based on our GREENSTEEL model, and it is excellent to see that vision starting to be realised. Together these two strategic plants have already started to create a truly integrated value chain which provides the platform for further GREENSTEEL rail production in France and across Europe.”

Olivier Bancel, Deputy General Manager Production of SNCF Réseau, said: “We are resolutely committed to the creation of a French “green rail” industry that is part of a circular economy. The SNCF, which already offers an environmentally friendly mode of transport, has strong ambitions to reduce its carbon impact in all areas, materials, works and logistics. Not only will part of our rails be produced electrically, but we will complete the cycle by offering part of the rails as raw materials, all in an optimised logistics cycle. This makes the business model even more relevant. The approval process has been accelerated, the partnership is working well.”

Gerard Glas, President of LIBERTY Rail Hayange added: “We are very excited by the validation of our GREENSTEEL rails by SNCF Réseau, which we believe will help us drive the company’s expansion plan and our move towards producing truly carbon neutral steel rails for operators across Europe. We look forward to working ever more closely with our colleagues at LIBERTY Ascoval in the future to create a GREENSTEEL champion in France.”

Cedric Orban, CEO of LIBERTY Ascoval, said: “I am very proud of the team which has worked so hard to upgrade our caster line so that we could create these new GREENSTEEL blooms for the first time. With this development and the improvement in production, we hope to add more employees next year. We look forward to working more closely with LIBERTY Rail Hayange to create a truly integrated green rail business.”

The visits by Sanjeev Gupta are part of the 100-day review integration programme during which LIBERTY Steel, working with the Ascoval and Hayange management teams, trade unions, customers and suppliers, will complete a comprehensive analysis of the businesses to explore investment opportunities and develop detailed plans to boost competitiveness, extend product range, support sales growth and become carbon neutral by 2030.

Further details of LIBERTY’s development plans for the Ascoval and Hayange sites will be announced in due course.

Further information from:

Paddy Toyne-Sewell
Head of Communications – Europe, GFG Alliance
+44 (0) 7516 029 522 Email Paddy
Cécilia Vichot
SNCF Réseau
+31 (0) 6 16 21 36 35 Email Cécilia
Audrey Breton
SNCF Réseau
+31 (0) 6 03 89 28 95 Email Audrey
Jonathan Levy
Head of Communications – France, GFG Alliance
+44 (0) 7718 494 214 Email Jonathan
Andrew Mitchell
Media Relations, GFG Alliance (UK and USA)
+44 (0) 7516 029 522 Email Andrew

Note to Editors:
LIBERTY Steel Group is part of GFG Alliance, a collection of global businesses and investments owned by Sanjeev Gupta and his family. GFG Alliance is structured into three core industry brands; LIBERTY Steel Group, ALVANCE Aluminium Group and SIMEC Energy Group, independent of each other yet united through shared values and a purpose to create a sustainable future for industry and society. GFG Alliance employs c.35,000 people, across 30 countries and has revenues of >USD $20bn.

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LIBERTY Rail Hayange, located in Moselle, France manufactures a wide range of steel rails for nationally significant infrastructure clients including France’s national rail operator SNCF and RATP, the operator of Paris’ metro system, and is regarded as a strategic asset by the French government. The site, which employs around 430 people, produces over 300,000 tonnes of rail per year.

LIBERTY Ascoval, based in Saint-Saulve in northern France which has around 270 employees. The plant uses Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) technology and has the capability to produce 600,000 tonnes of steel blooms, billets and other forged products annually from recycled scrap metal.

SNCF Réseau: To meet the growing need for mobility and to accompany the opening up of the passenger market, SNCF Réseau is developing the rail offer on the 30,000 kilometres of line for which it is responsible for maintenance, modernisation and safety. As a partner to public authorities and territories, guaranteeing neutral and equitable access to the infrastructure, SNCF Réseau is at the service of the transport companies and organising authorities that are its main customers. SNCF Réseau has 53,000 employees and a turnover of €6.5 billion in 2019.