The rails will be produced at Tata's Hayange mill in Lorraine, which has recently been upgraded at a cost of €35m to produce rails in lengths of up to 108m.

The opening of the new €12m heat treatment plant at Hayange has allowed Tata to increase its annual output of heat-treated rails from 55,000 tonnes to 125,000 tonnes.

"We are committed to serving the needs of our customers and SNCF is Hayange's largest and most important customer," says Mr Gérard Glas, head of Tata Steel's rail sector. "This contract helps to justify the confidence Tata Steel placed in Hayange when the company invested in 108m rail and more recently in 108m stress-free heat-treated rail."