The Bechuanaland Railway opened in 1897 between Mafeking (present day Mafikeng) and Bulawayo, a 780km railway of which 640km lies in the territory of present day Botswana. The railway was built to connect the British colony of Cape Province (present day South Africa) with the then new protectorate of Rhodesia (later Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe). The gauge chosen was 3ft 6in (1067mm), to enable through running with the existing railways of Cape Province.
This railway, together with a few short branches opened in the 1970s and a longer branch from Francistown to Sua Pan (175km) opened in 1992, makes up the present day Botswana network. The main line remains open, although its importance as a through route declined with the opening of more direct routes between South Africa and Zimbabwe in the late 20th century. Passenger services operate between Lobatse, Gabarone and Francistown; a connecting service operates between Francistown and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The line is also used by luxury cruise trains.
In 2019, a new bridge across the Zambezi between Botswana and the town of Kazungula in Zambia opened for road traffic. The bridge includes provision for a rail line to be added at a later date, which would provide a direct connection with the Zambian rail network.
© 2006-2022 Glyn Williams
Photo image by TheBeastdo from Wikimedia Commons