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Case Study

The Future of Ferry Transport: HADAG’s Digital Transformation Journey with Optibus

Learn how HADAG in Hamburg increased passenger experience and employee satisfaction applying digital solutions and management tools.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

HADAG - operating ferries in the city of Hamburg since 1888

HADAG Seetouristik und Fährdienst AG (HADAG) is a prominent player in waterside passenger transportation within the Port of Hamburg. Operating on eight routes with over 600 daily departures, this subsidiary of Hamburger Hochbahn AG (HHA) transports more than 10 million passengers annually using 27 ferries. Wolfgang Mularzyk, responsible for HADAG’s digitalization strategy, shares his experience in transforming HADAG’s planning and dispatching operations with the help of Optibus.

HADAG's Quest for Digital Solutions

Ferry operators face several unique changes within the field of passenger transportation. For one, ferries travel by waterway routes that make distance and timetables less predictable than surface passenger transport


Wolfgang Mularzyk, Project Manager of Digitalization at HADAG, notes, “The central difference is obvious. We do not move on the road, so the route is not always as accurate as with a bus line.” 

Additionally, HADAG’s ferries are often operated by a single skipper, necessitating specialized duty scheduling considerations.

These challenges are compounded by the lack of digital solutions for ferry operators. 


“We are in a niche with our transport offering. There is no dedicated software for urban passenger ferry transport. That’s why we based our software selection on IT systems from the bus sector, because that’s simply the best fit for our company,” explains Wolfgang. “In this process, we were also able to build on the huge wealth of experience of our parent company, Hamburger Hochbahn.”


Like bus transportation, HADAG’s ferry network also runs according to timetables and needs to supply passenger information systems with service data. 


“So there are a lot of overlaps,” adds Wolfgang.

As the last operating company within Hamburger Verkehrsverbund (hvv), Hamburg’s public transportation network, to provide real-time data, HADAG had one more reason to seek a digitalization solution.

Ferry networks are quite similar to bus networks - they both run according to timetables and need to supply passenger information systems with service data.

Elevating Transportation Management and Future-Proofing Operations with Optibus

HADAG’s decision to adopt Optibus’ cloud-native software was solidified by Optibus’ ability to deliver fast and precise software onboarding, which is a distinct advantage in the market for transportation management platforms. 


The fast onboarding process further helped HADAG to expedite their digital transformation journey, which kicked off with a focus on modernizing deployment planning and digitizing and standardizing data for their new digital passenger information system.


Optibus’ comprehensive SaaS platform for Planning, Scheduling, Rostering, and Operations perfectly met their requirements, making it the ideal choice for HADAG.


“Optibus is the only provider that combines all requirements in one SaaS platform,” Wolfgang highlights.


This strategic decision not only streamlined HADAG’s operations but also aligned seamlessly with their broader digitalization strategy, ensuring future-proof and transparent operations for the organization.


Enhanced Passenger Experience and Improved Employee Satisfaction as Results


Providing a better passenger experience using real-time data


HADAG has been working to launch a new digital passenger information system based on real-time data. Optibus plays a crucial role in generating high-quality target timetable data for that system.


“The feedback from our passengers that we are getting better at passenger information is growing steadily. That’s how Optibus supports us in taking the passenger experience to a new level,” notes Wolfgang. 


In addition to using Optibus and digitizing passenger information, HADAG is developing a control center system for coordinating daily ferry operations and providing real-time timetable data. This ensures that passengers receive accurate, up-to-date information about ferry schedules, improving their overall experience.


With the introduction of HADAG’s new passenger information system, which leverages Optibus for target timetable data, real-time information will now be accessible for all modes of transportation within Hamburger Verkehrsverbund. Optibus plays a supportive role in providing crucial target timetable data for the system.


Employee Satisfaction and Recruitment


HADAG is also addressing the challenge of staff shortages, using Optibus to enhance employee satisfaction by creating more attractive duty rosters and schedules


“We, too, are dealing with staff shortages, which have various causes,” says Wolfgang. “Higher employee satisfaction will help to counteract this and make HADAG a more attractive employer in passenger transport in the Port of Hamburg.”

HADAG uses Optibus' Scheduling software to create more attractive schedules for passengers and driving staff.

Paving the Way for Future-Ready Ferry Transport Operations

HADAG’s journey with Optibus illustrates how a digital planning, scheduling, and operations solution can address unique challenges in the ferry transport industry. By adopting Optibus, HADAG is not only modernizing its operations but also enhancing the passenger experience, improving employee satisfaction, and preparing for the future of urban passenger transport. The successful onboarding process and the integration of Optibus into their operations have exceeded their expectations, positioning HADAG for continued success in the dynamic world of ferry transportation.

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