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Hafencity Riverbus – the first amphibious bus in Germany

Posted September 5, 2016

What is one man‘s enthusiasm worth? While some would say that it is always teams behind all significant achievements, other would argue that hard work can translate any dream into a reality. Fred Franken in Hamburg, Germany, became the owner of the first amphibious bus in the country and even thought the process took him four years to complete, he overcame all the obstacles.

It is a bus and it is a boat - Hafencity Riverbus is a huge tourist attraction in Hamburg. Image credit:

It is a bus and it is a boat – Hafencity Riverbus is a huge tourist attraction in Hamburg. Image credit:

Ok, it may not be the inspiring story about a man against the system, but it is very interesting nevertheless. Fred Franken says he is a bus enthusiast and a shipping merchant, so an amphibious bus simply combines two of his passions together. In fact, he thought of bringing such a cool means of transportation 18 years ago, when he saw a similar bus-boat in Singapore. There have been many buses like this around the world, but neither Germany, nor Hamburg ever had one, according to MAN, local truck brand. This comes as a surprise, as Hamburg seems to be a perfect city for such transportation – all of the main tourist attractions are situated around the river Elbe. However, bringing this idea to reality was an extremely difficult task.

First of all, being a pioneer is always deemed to be difficult – Fred Franken had to deal with many rules and regulations that were not considerate of such amphibious transport. For example, this vehicle, called Hafencity Riverbus, must have stop request buttons, even though it was never intended to stop at usual bus stops. It has only a touristic value only and does not serve as means of public transportation in the city. The driver has to have both captain and bus driver licence. And, of course, creating and running such vehicle is an adventure in itself.

Hafencity Riverbus is built on a MAN truck base, body is built from composite materials by a Hungarian company. It can take up to 36 passengers and 3 crew members on an 80 minute sightseeing ride on land and water. While on land it is powered by the normal internal combustion engine, but in water it is propelled by two propellers and controls are completely different. In the first few months of operation this bus-boat was very popular, meaning that there is only one day per week for maintenance, which is carried out by the MAN service outlet at Moorfleet. Fred Franken is already being asked to build more of these buses for other cities as well, which goes to show how important it is to start with a good idea.

One may argue that this amphibious bus is not much of a technological achievement – there were many similar vehicles in other parts of the world. However, Hafencity Riverbus is the first of its kind in Germany, which in itself is quite impressive. Furthermore, it got the attention from the MAN and the movement for more amphibious buses has started.


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