Case Study

Bat Tunnel Vennbahn / Luxembourg, Belgium Finalist of the Natura 2000 Award 2018 Category: Reconciling interests / perception

Contact name

Alain Klein

Institution name

Nature Park Our

Region & country

North of Luxembourg, East Belgium


The Vennbahn is a railway which connected Aachen in Germany to Troisvierges in Luxembourg. The last train ran on this line in the 1960s. Since then, the tunnel was unused. Its microclimate turned out to be suitable as a winter roost for bats. The inclusion of this territory in the Natura 2000 network was therefore understandable. As the railway was converted to a cycle path network, the tunnel constituted a problem. How was it possible to connect Luxembourg to the cycle path without chasing the bats out of the tunnel? How could awareness of the bats be raised without inciting people to enter the tunnel? The solution was to build the bike path around the tunnel and to set up an adventure trail to sensitize people.

Activity for children

Nature Park Our

Multimedia station

Caroline Martin / Naturpark Our

Bat Tunnel

Caroline Martin / Naturpark Our

Finalist of the Natura 2000 Award

European Union

Background of the project

Since the last train ran on these rails in the early 1960s, the tunnel has been unused. Different species of bats (a study identified in the tunnel at least 12 of the 19 species found in Luxembourg) settled down and it turned out that it wouldn’t be possible to build the cycle path through the tunnel without disturbing and chasing the bats out of this tunnel.

Regarding the discovery of the numerous bat species in the tunnel, an alternative had to be found to the initial plan of taking the cycle path through the tunnel, without losing the benefit of the tunnel as a tourist attraction. The main necessity was to find a solution that was in the interests of all stakeholders involved.

Solution and actions taken

The idea was to close the entry to the tunnel while still retaining the attractiveness of the unique site by creating an adventure trail before the gates informing visitors about the former use of the tunnel and its inhabitants and about this Natura 2000 site as well.

  • Study of bat species
  • Over 2 years of meetings with the stakeholders
  • Access to the tunnel was restricted on both sides (Luxembourg & Belgium)
  • Realization of an adventure trail identical on both sides, containing a wooden bicycle rack, benches, information panels, a listening and multimedia station with touchscreen including videos, images
  • Installation of webcams to follow the bats’ activities
    Cost: 245.000 € incl. the study, closing of access, infrastructure for the trail, communication media

Other institutions or parties involved

  • Municipalities: Troisvierges (LU) & Burg-Reuland (BE)
  • Ponts et Chaussées (Luxembourg Roads Administration): responsible for the construction engineering
  • ANF (Nature & Forest agency): responsible for nature and forest conservation, sustainable management of forests, sensitization, control of nature and forest protection
  • ORT Éislek (regional tourist office): responsible for North Luxembourg
  • Tourismusagentur Ostbelgien (East Belgium tourism agency): responsible for the East Belgium region


Uses of touchscreen 2016 – spring 2020:
Luxembourg site: 15,088
Belgian site: 11,538

Organization of annual activities for adults and children along the adventure trail:
2016 – 2019: a total of 8 activities.

Participation in these group activities:

  • 2016: 29 children
  • 2017: 6 children / 7 adults
  • 2018: 63 children / 4 adults
  • 2019: 19 children / 18 adults


  • To find a solution that convinced every stakeholder with different interests (biking, tourism, nature conservation, bat specialists, roads office, municipalities)
  • To do a lot of persuading

Lessons learned

  • Showing stakeholders the innovative ideas and alternatives of your project
  • This project was carried out as an INTERREG project which all the partners committed to for at least 10 years
  • Such positive experiences can change minds on similar undertakings in Natura 2000 sites and facilitate work on future projects
  • But you still can’t convince everybody: There are still people that question the necessity of closing the tunnel

Contact name

Alain Klein

Institution name

Nature Park Our



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