The first railway in Bolivia was the Ferrocarril de Antofagasta a Bolivia (FCAB), which opened in 1894 from Antofagasta (Chile) to Oruro. About 480km of this line lie in Bolivian territory. It was built to metre gauge, which was also used for subsequent expansion in the country.
The present day network consists of two distinct groups of lines, Ferrovia Andina and Ferrovia Oriental. Both operate passenger and freight services on their major routes.
The Andina system now includes those parts of the FCAB that lie in Bolivian territory. The Andina has cross border connections with Argentina and Chile, and with Peru by ferry across Lake Titicaca.
The Oriental system has cross border connections with Argentina and Brazil. Currently, all international traffic is freight only. A 205km railway is under construction to connect the Oriental network at Montero with a new fertilizer plant Bulo Bulo. Owing to contract issues, the line was not completed in time for the opening of the plant in 2017, and construction is believed to be ongoing.
In 2019, engineering design studies began for an extension of the Bulo Bulo railway to Vila Tunari. It is envisaged that the line will eventually form part of a through route between Brazil and Peru.
A 130km railway is proposed to serve a projected new port at Puerto Busch on the Paraguay river. This would serve mines in the Mutún area, and would connect with the Oriental network allowing mineral exports to reach the river directly rather than by the existing route through the narrow Tamengo channel from Puerto Suarez.