The tunnel that provides a vital rail link across the Flemish Ardennes is also known as the Spichtenberg Tunnel by the Germans. It was built during the 19th century and in two world wars played an important role in the German war effort allowing Axis and Nazi powers to bring in men and supplies. At the end of the Great War retreating German troops blew up the tunnel.
Repaired after the war it once again saw service during the Second World War. Adolf Hitler is said to have sheltered here in the night of 22 December 1940. But the tunnel was also a focus of resistance activity. In 1944 the resistance sabotaged a locomotive and blocked the tunnel.
After the war English engineers restored the rail link.
The tunnel was originally built between 1857 and 1861 making it one of the oldest rail tunnels in Belgium. During the 19th century it contributed towards prosperity allowing textile manufacturers from Ghent and Ronse to access European markets.
As a result of the works no trains will operate between Ronse and Oudenaarde this summer. That is quite exceptional. Engineers will work round the clock to renovate the tunnel in time. In the meantime the rail company will operate replacement buses.