A new current for the Elbe
Sustainable Mobility on the Water
When you are out and about in Hamburg, the water is never far away. So it makes sense that the Alster, Elbe and Bille are being used as transport routes. Now the Elbe ferries are set to become a little more climate friendly.
The port made Hamburg a major player, and the Alster, Elbe and Bille keep the city moving. In addition, there is a multitude of canals that weave through Hamburg – the Goldbekkanal, the Isebekkanal and the Oberhafenkanal at the Elbtower. They have all been waterways for a while, because it is so much nicer to get to your destination by boat than by car or S-Bahn. That’s why Hadag, Hamburg’s largest ferry operator, transports over 10 million passengers a year alone.
The beauty of Hamburg is that every single passenger can conveniently use the port ferries with an ordinary public transport ticket. The ferries complement the existing bus lines on land, for example from west of the Elbe riverbanks up to Neumühlen. The 62 line between Landungsbrücken and Finkenwerder is particularly popular and passenger numbers are also increasing on the 72 line, which only went into service last year. It connects the Elbphilharmonie at the western end of HafenCity to the water.
Now the fleet is being modernized and converted to motors that emit little or no CO2. Of Hadag’s 26 ships, the two newest – the “Kehrwieder” and the “Elbphilharmonie” – already run on diesel-electric propulsion. In addition, three new hybrid ferries are being built in Tangermünde. The first of those new ships is scheduled to go into service in early 2024, followed by ships two and three later that year. If all goes well and the ferries are well used, the operator could even order three more ships.
The special feature of these new ferries is their battery power. The electricity for the motors is stored on board overnight. This reduces emissions, because a ship with a combustion engine consumes more than one million liters of diesel a year. Only when the battery is empty, usually in the afternoon, the ship is switched to diesel. And because ships could be powered by hydrogen in the future, the ferries are already technically equipped for new fuel cells.
At the same time the route network is being expanded further and new landing points added. In doing so, the water network on Hamburg’s rivers will reflect the city’s history. After all, the harbor that made this city so successful consisted of over 38 different smaller harbors 150 years ago. Many thousands of workers had to be taken to their workplace every day, often by boat. That’s why in 1888, the first ferry line was opened from St. Pauli Landungsbrücke via Elbbrücken to Veddel. Today, there are eight lines on the Elbe River.
Now, a station at the Elbbrücken underneath the Elbtower could be put into operation. “In the first step, the 72 ferry line has already been set up as a regular service as far as the Elbphilharmonie concert hall,” says the Hamburg transport association. “In the extension, it is planned to set up additional jetties in the Baakenhafen area, at Kleiner Grasbrook and at the Elbbrücken bridges to connect directly with the subway and S-Bahn stops of the same name.” However, such extensions are expensive. That’s why there are no exact dates yet for when tenants in the Elbtower will be able to board “their” ferry.
Photos: © Danfoss