The pre-feasibility study for a new rail network to connect Namibia and Botswana has begun.

The move marks a concrete step towards carrying out the project, which has been under planning for more than three years.

The 12-month study is being funded by an N$3.4m grant from the World Bank and N$329,000 each from the two countries.

Botswana hopes the railway line will boost its trade in coal, industrial machinery and other materials by providing access to port facilities on the Namibian Atlantic coast.

The rail network will form part of the Trans-Kalahari rail line.