ProRail has a high priority on sustainability. The strategic goals of ProRail are to make the railway network safer, more reliable, punctual and more sustainable.

Working on these goals every day, a very interesting topic is how ProRail can take into account nature as a good neighbor. We like to share our findings, our knowledge and our growing enthusiasm. 

With the construction, expansion and intensive use of railways, waterways and motorways, natural areas in the Netherlands have become fragmented in recent decades. As a result, animals and plants sometimes have an unnaturally small habitat. Since around the year 2000 this is a subject that is recognized. Gradually the first fauna passages were built. Since then, fauna passages have been taken into account in the design of new infrastructure.  

The first ecoduct crossing railroad tracks and immediately the most famous one is nature bridge Zanderij Crailoo. The national defragmentation program did not exist then. The construction started in 2002 and the bridge was opened by Queen Beatrix in 2006. It is the world longest nature bridge: 800 meters in length and 50 meters wide.


Natuurbrug Zanderij Crailoo (foto GNR)


Meerjarenprogramma Ontsnippering (MJPO): Dutch multi-annual defragmentation program

With the start in 2004 of the Dutch multi-annual defragmentation program (MJPO), a great catching-up effort started in the construction of fauna passages.

This program is a collaboration between the national government, the provinces and ProRail. There are about 215 locations mapped out - places where natural habitats are intersected - of which 79 are located around the railway network. ProRail is working on solving this problem on those locations. We create more than 125 large and small fauna passages: safe crossing possibilities under or above the railway infrastructure.

For example, in North Brabant, in the middle of the 'Het Groene Woud' area, we are introducing ecoduct ‘De Mortelen’. This one is situated above the intensively used 4-track Boxtel-Eindhoven railway line. Another beautiful example is the nature bridge ‘Duinpoort’. Finished in June 2018 and crossing the railway in the coastal area between Zandvoort and Haarlem, it will connect the National Park Zuid-Kennemerland with the Amsterdam water supply dunes. An unique and highly protected natural area.

But there's more. Fauna passage ‘Kootwijkerzand’ (finished in March 2018), with a wide faunatunnel under the Amersfoort - Apeldoorn railway line and a broad ecoduct over the A1 motorway, creates a new natural connection in the Veluwe nature reserve, which is almost 100,000 hectares.

Start construction nature bridge ‘De Mortelen’ MJPO-NB01 , february 2018. (foto ProRail)

Hoisting beams for nature bridge Duinpoort’’ MJPO-NH12, march 2018. (foto ProRail)

Fauna passage ‘Kootwijkerzand’ MJPO-GE01 after completion, march 2018 (foto ProRail)

Building of nature bridge ‘Weerterbergen’ MJPO-LI14, apr 2013 (foto ProRail)


Small fauna passages Ecoducts are large and expensive infrastructural objects, but most of the bottlenecks can already be solved with the construction of small fauna passages. Small tunnels can relatively easily be drilled under the railroad. In addition to these eco-culverts, small side-walkways in existing water tunnels and bridges. These small fauna passages are meant for animals such as otters and amphibians. ProRail has a total of around one hundred small faunal facilities.

  • Guided auger drilling near Pijnacker, small fauna passage MJPO-ZH13, nov 2015 (foto ProRail)
  • Guided auger drilling machine near Bunnik, small fauna passage MJPO-UT06, march 2017 (foto ProRail)
  • New small fauna passage MJPO-OV07, nov 2015 (foto ProRail)
  • Badger tunnel near Hollandsche Rading (foto ProRail)
  • Small sidewalkways in existing water-passage MJPO-LI17, jun 2013 (foto ProRail)
  • Redesign of existing water-passage MJPO-LI20, okt 2013 (foto ProRail)


Extra measures

An interesting development is that extra measures for nature are taken. Sometimes it is easy to give more living space back to animals with simple and cheap solutions. For example, an old guard house at ecoduct ‘Op Hees’, has been converted into a real animal hotel. Bee hostels, facilities for bats, hiding places for hedgehogs and so on, are easily placed, so animals can live at a safe distance from the track.

In order to keep animals away from the railway tracks, ProRail also uses new techniques like  “odor pillars” and “swan ribbons”. They have proven their worth in addition to traditional shielding by ditches, hedgerows and fences. It leads to fewer collisions and other incidents with animals, and fewer delays for the train passengers.

Sewer pipe arranged as bat-shelter and used in ecoduct Weerterbergen MJPO-LI14 (2 foto’s ProRail)

Bee-hostel near new small fauna passage MJPO-NB07, may 2013 (foto Heijmans)

Re-development of an old military shelter as a zootel near ecoduct Op Hees MJPO-UT04, apr 2014 (foto ProRail)

Example of swan ribbons next to railroad. (foto ProRail)

Example of odor pillars to expel rabbits. (foto ProRail)

Some nice Youtube links for extra

Drone coverage of hoisting beams for nature bridge ‘Duinpoort’ MJPO-NH12, march 2018

The new fauna passage ‘Kootwijkerzand’ from the air MJPO-GE01, march 2018

Timelapse coverage of sliding a 15m wide fauna passage into a railroad in one weekend. fauna passage ‘Kootwijkerzand’ MJPO-GE01, may 2017

FAQ - What does ProRail do for animals along the track? 2014

Children plant trees on ecoduct ‘Op Hees’ MJPO-UT04. 2014

Construction of a Zootel near ecoduct ‘Op Hees’ MJPO-UT04. 2014