The very first railway in the French colony of Sénégal was built in a part of the country that now falls within the boundaries of Mali. The first railway in what would become present day Senegal opened in 1924 from Dakar to Kayes; this was a metre gauge line, of which about 645km lay in the territory of the present day country. Several branch lines were subsequently built, of which those to Saint-Louis and Mbaké remain, giving a present day network of about 900km.
After Senegal and Mali gained their independence in 1960, the line to Kayes became an international line. The respective governments each took control of the railways in their own territory, with arrangements put in place for the continuance of international traffic.
In 2003, the two governments handed over control of the main line to a private consortium, Transrail. Little investment has been put into the lines and they remains in poor condition. Services are erratic, and sometimes suspended for long periods. Suburban passenger services on a 27km section of the line in the Dakar area continue as a separate operation.
In 2012, a project was announced to upgrade the 1286km railway from Dakar to Bamako in Mali, which would include conversion to standard gauge. By early 2016, framework agreements were in place for the work to be implemented by China Railway Construction Corp.
In 2014, Grande Côte Operations completed a new 22km railway from its mineral sands extraction project to a junction with the existing line at Mékhé, also having provided funding the rehabilitation of the existing line from there to Dakar, a distance of around 100km.
In 2016, the Transrail concession was reassigned to Dakar Bamako Ferroviaire.
Also in 2016, contracts were awarded for the construction of the Dakar Regional Express, a 55km passenger rail link between Dakar, Diamniadio and the new Blaise Diagne International Airport.
Flag image from CIA World Factbook