Buses equipped with WiFi, USB ports and internal screens to display messages such as route information will become standard in Auckland in the future. All three features and much more are requirements of Auckland Transports PTOM contracts which were revealed on Monday in the finally released tender documents for the new bus network in South Auckland. The routes were confirmed all the way back at the end 2013 which seems like a long time ago now.

New Network - South Auckland

Back then AT said that the bus routes would be implemented mid 2015 however now they’ve reached the tender stage AT say the routes themselves won’t change till October 2016. It appears that there were a number of issues that have held up this stage of the process such as the delays in the Otahuhu Interchange, getting the new PTOM contracts signed off.

In a milestone for the city’s transport services, Auckland Transport will soon be calling for tenders to operate its New Network bus services in south Auckland (including Pukekohe and Waiuku).

These will be the first tenders called under the new Public Transport Operating Model (PTOM) system and the first PTOM tenders called to create the long awaited New Network. This will mean major improvements to the way people travel on bus, train and ferry.

With the southern tender process leading the way, invitations will be called progressively for bus operators to tender in other sectors; west Auckland will be next later this year.

The tenders for Auckland’s south bus services will open on 17 August and close on 28 September. The successful tenderers will be named early in 2016 and should be operating the New Network Services by October 2016.

While I’m disappointed it’s taken this long to even get to the tender stage, it’s good to finally see something happening. In South Auckland the routes have been divided up in to nine separate tenders (units), each of which contains one or more routes – including school routes. Each route has a full timetable attached so bus companies know just how many services they’ll need to run.

What I’m particularly interested in isn’t so much the tender itself but what AT requires from bus operators as that sets the benchmark for what kind of quality we can expect the services to be outside of the main one of frequency. To get this I’ve gone through the PTOM contract to see what AT have included. As you would expect, some of the requirements differ depending on the size of the bus while other requirements are universal across all bus types. First some of the non-technical ones are listed below.

Bedding in process – Once the contracts go live operators will have a three month to bedding in process to get performance right before financial penalties apply – although AT will review non performing routes before that happens.

Timetables – there are Monday to Friday timetables and separate Saturday and Sunday timetables. With a few exceptions public holidays will use Sunday timetables.

Advertising – The operators have to give control of internal and external advertising to Auckland Transport, this includes advertising on buses. AT say that internal advertising will primarily be for things like service information (e.g. route info), disruptions, PT promotions and event promotions however they don’t rule out commercial advertising. For any commercial advertising – such as on the back of the bus – AT will take 80% of the net revenue and the operator will get 20%. Another bug bear of many users is advertising along the sides of buses. AT’s guidelines suggest that this generally won’t be used but of course they leave the door open to it occurring some times.

Sustainability – Each operator has to pro-actively demonstrate to AT how they are working to support the Auckland Plan and RPTP sustainability principles. These include

(a) greenhouse gas emission reduction;
(b) reduction in emissions to air, water and soil;
(c) energy efficiency (on site, in Vehicles, and infrastructure facilities);
(d) training/up-skilling of staff in sustainability principles
(e) enhancement of the public transport experience; and
(f) support of behavioural shift towards increased levels of public transport patronage, walking and cycling.

Cleaning – cleaned as a minimum;

Daily:

(A) seat cleaning as necessary;
(B) floor swept and or mopped;
(C) rubbish removed;
(D) all gums and other substances removed;
(E) graffiti removed;
(F) livery and stickers checked,

Every second day:

(A) exterior bus wash;
(B) internal passenger window wipe, including sills,

Monthly:

(A) clean roofline;
(B) valet drivers area;
(C) valet walls and all interior glass;
(D) valet seating area;
(E) clean and disinfect passenger hand holds;
(F) wheelchair ramp checked and cleaned;

6 monthly:

(A) fumigate bus,

Annually:

(A) full interior steam clean or equivalent;
(B) shampoo seats (A and B are to take place 6 months apart);
(C) external polish,

Mid-life update – Operators have to give all buses a mid-life update at 8-10 years of age unless AT agree that the bus is still in good condition – if it is then it gets reassessed annually. The minimum update required is below but more could be needed depending on the state of the bus.

(a) new flooring;
(b) new upholstery on seats;
(c) new wall lining and ceiling panels as required; and
(d) new lighting.

Vehicle Quality Standards – There are a number of specific and mandatory standards that AT have set – some of which are in addition to the NZTA’s Requirements for urban buses. These standards relate to the age, quality of design, manufacture and componentry of the Vehicle chassis and body. The list below is just some of the requirements for new buses.

Vehicle Age – No individual bus is allowed to be more than 20 years old – I guess that means the current bendy buses will definitely be allowed. In addition as from 1 January 2017 the average age of cannot be more than 10 years old.

Engines – have to be capable of accelerating from 0-20 km/h in ≤ 4 seconds and 0-50 km/h ≤ 30 seconds. They need to have a range without refuelling of ≥ 350 km or 15 hours. Be compliant to Euro 5, US 2007, Japan 05, or equivalent Opacity level and not omit noise greater than 80 decibels when first introduced or 84 decibels at any time during its life – even when under acceleration.

Bus Sizes – AT specify four different sizes of bus – small (≥40 passengers, ≥25 – 30 seats), standard (≥54 passengers, ≥45 seats), extra-large (≥78 passengers, ≥45 seats) and Large bus Double Deck (≥100 passengers, ≥25 – 80 seats).

Doors – Small buses can have just a single door while all other buses need double doors. In all situations there are size requirements e.g. on a large bus double doors are needed at the front and with a width of greater than or equal to 1,000mm.

Seats – Forward facing seats have to be a minimum of 690mm apart with leg room of at least 300mm (as measured from the front of the squab to the back of the seat). Singles seats need to be ≥ 425mm wide and double bench seats a minimum of 750mm wide.

CCTV – for small buses there will be a minimum of two cameras in the bus while on double deckers large double decker buses could see 10 or more cameras

Aircon – Buses should be between 18-22 degrees, have a humidity of 50% and all windows should remain mist free.

Electronic displays & announcements – small buses will need at least one screen and large buses up to four to provide “route and journey information and announcements” to those on board. AT say ideally they’ll be 20″-22″ in size. Up to eight pairs of speakers are also needed to support this.

WiFi – All buses should have WiFi.

USB sockets – Buses should have USB charging sockets. At a minimum AT say they should be on every second row on each side of the bus.

There are a number of other aspects listed in the document however I’ll stop here as the post is long enough. For existing buses some of the standards are a little bit lower.

Overall I suspect all of this means we won’t see radically different buses however those last three aspects listed above suggest a slight improvement in attractiveness and usability. I’d expect screens will be very similar to what’s on the inner link but without the ads and that is great for new users of the route/system. The USB ports in particular are likely to be popular and it’s a shame we don’t have them on our new trains – I wonder if AT are thinking of retrofitting them?

Is there anything you think AT have missed out from a customer experience perspective?

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92 comments

    1. Euro V is pretty high, I’m fairly sure that’s above what current new vehicle imports have to be (I think that’s still IV).

      1. it’s the 2008 standard. 7 Years old.
        New one is Euro VI, for all new registrations after 2013 (2 years ago+).
        Why use an outdated benchmark?

  1. I’d rather enough buses, with sufficient capacity, such that I can choose from more departure options to get home, and preferably sitting down, than electronic displays. USB? That’s a red herring, what Auckland trip is so long that a sufficiently charged phone battery can’t last?

    1. Guys, you get all the buses anyway. The PTOM requires operators to run all the buses they are contracted to run. This just means the buses they do run must be high quality. The existence of a usb requirement (or Info screens or seat steam cleaning) will have zero impact on the size of the fleet or the timetable.

      Also Barry, your last point is a logical tautology. Of course a sufficiently charged phone will be sufficiently charged! The point of these is for insufficiently charged phones!

    2. This is thorough work from AT, but I tend to agree that usb charging is not necessary. For me the convenience to forgetful commuters is probably outweighed by the tangle of usb cables and the extra cost of installation and maintenance/checking of all of these ports. But wireless networking of course is simpler, and most definitely always welcome!

      Instead of usb charging, I would like to see (for new buses) the basics of noise and emissions more aggressively addressed. In my view we should be looking to move to hybrid/electric buses for new purchases where practicable so that we gradually migrate to a cleaner, quieter and healthier fleet. Maybe AT could play their part by providing standards and a shared infrastructure for battery charging across all bus companies.

      Also I would add something about driver safety in there, so that they can easily access help where there is an incident on or around the bus..

      1. You won’t get hybrid electric buses instead of USB though. USB ports probably add $500 to the build cost of a bus to wire up. Hybrid electric adds $150,000-$200,000. The two aren’t competitors for funding, and having USB doesn’t stop you improving the emissions or fuel consumption!

    3. If AT was saying we can have USB or 100 more buses, well I’d agree, but there is no such trade off. Why are you all so quick to complain about a small additional utility that you can ignore if you don’t want to use it? Is it some kind strange hang-up about luxury, or the thought that someone else might be getting something for free?

      Perhaps it’s a mistaken idea that comfort and convenience are not utilities? Ask any airllne, or anyone who knows about service industries. These little things can change the whole public perception of PT .

      All of these criteria add up to AT trying to make the services more appealing to use and even to be around on the streets. By themselves these details aren’t game changers but if they do accumulatively make for a more pleasant and attractive service then they will be a cause for the core attributes of services to justify investment and be upgraded: frequency, running hours, more buslanes, stops and stations.

      I am delighted AT are working hard to improve every detail of their customers’ experience, this is great, and so unlike the recent past in Auckland: where only a second class [if that] customer experience was offered so we only got second class use.

  2. That’s exciting about USB charging, do they spec 2A, or only 0.5A. A number of times I haven’t noticed I’ve been running low on power, and if I had chosen to drive I would have been able to recharge my phone, so one less disadvantage of catching the bus. Track My Bus app uses quite a bit of power.

    Should the hand holds only get cleaned once a month, I’d hope they get disinfected every day.

  3. Excellent on all fronts, except the delay. Demand pressure is building on all PT modes in Auckland profoundly so at the peaks.

    On the southern network, that Airporter just isn’t going to attract users until it runs at a decent frequency. I know it’s chicken and egg; they want to see more people using it before they up the frequency, but it really is hard to see that happening with an average 15min wait [30 min freq; possibly to be upgraded], and Airbuses turning up several times if you decide to wait for it… and taxis. So there’s a very competitive situation, the trains at Papatoetoe are every 5 minutes each way and a smooth, fast and congestion free ride south or north, so the weak link is the bus leg; what should be a quick skip between the Airport and station. Oh and the station needs much better signage for those connecting to the buses.

    1. It needs some bus priority too. I don’t know the route well enough to know where all the trouble spots are, but it’s horribly unreliable at peak times.

      1. I’ve never used it to Onehunga, why would you if not a local as the trains are too infrequent there? But in my experience it can get stuck approaching Paptoetoe. I get the reasons for routing it to that bigger centre, but perhaps they should plan for an optimised connection at Puhinui for Airport users and workers?

        Till, of course they can get the mess of a real RTN through Mangere sorted.

  4. “They need to have a range without refuelling of ≥ 350 km or 15 hours. ”

    Rules out EV’s though Hybrids still an option.

      1. Its the requirement that drivers be able to go 15 hours without a toilet stop that is unreasonable 😉

        Agree – if the bus company can manage the fleet so that they dont run out of petrol while in service, then it shouldn’t be a factor. No reason they tanks need to be full though???

    1. “They need to have a range without refuelling of ≥ 350 km or 15 hours.”

      That requirement jumped out at me as not making a lot of sense.

      Surely though it does not matter if contractor choose to use an EV with 200-300km range to cover a small route, as long as they hit performance targets and availability?
      I guess something with short range would add risk if detours were required, but a bus with 350km+ range still could run short after a day of running.

      But then how does a range of X km _OR_ 15 hours work? What is a range of 15 hours? An EV could do say few 50km runs in the morning, sit idle, then a few 50km runs in the evening, so achieve the 15 hours target without refuelling. Or does the 15 hours mean 15 hours of continuous operation?

      I have had to read a few tender/requirements documents over the years, and you often have to ponder for a while, ‘just what are they trying to achieve here’?

      1. actually this requirement makes a LOT of sense, if the figures are at the upper end of sensible, there’s not a lot of drivers taking over a bus in traffic in Auckland (Link excepted) but keeping a bus in continuous service and changing the driver is (was) common in Wellington and reduces wasteful out of service running

        one Northern Express weekend duty runs over 10 hours and 350+ km, 15 hours is a bus leaving the depot at 6:00AM and returning at 9:00PM, not unreasonable

        1. Out of service running is not paid for so if operators think it’s more efficient to have less range, why stop them?

          1. a bit naive Harvey, the cost of running out of service will be passed on to AT through the tender price

        2. As in, NZ Bus decided to “save money” by buying bsues without a fuel gauge installed because the buses were supposed to be refueled regularly.
          And guess what actually happened?
          That’s right, the buses started running out of fuel in the middle of the runs.
          They had to go a retrofit the gauges into the buses.

  5. Not sure how all the new requirements are going to drive competition. How is an operator looking to move into a new area (and therefore needing to buy all new buses if successful) going to compete with an existing operator who has an average fleet age of 10 years and doesn’t have to provide wifi, usb etc.

  6. I’d be interested in procedures for changing routes and number of services. What happens when contracted services are consistently overfilled?

    1. My understanding is when a service is overfilled, AT will tell the operator to increase the service level (ie increased frequency). The price is prearranged in the tender process based on in service km, in service hours and a peak vehicle requirement.

      Routes shouldn’t change as that is what the consultation has just determined for these contracts.

    1. Full standard liveries (and interiors as well I think) + uniforms. You will only be able to the actual bus company by a small logo inside and out and by the epilets/name badge on the drivers uniform

      1. Delighted; it’s possible I may even enjoy catching a bus here and being able to look out a window. OK, not the Inner Link because it’s going to be a crap service until the wrapper logos are removed and it runs on dedicated bus lanes, has priority at controlled intersections, etc or is replaced by LRT, which, of course, it should be. It’ll be a massive improvement from the days when a majority of buses sported what was probably the worst bus livery in the world, Stagecoach’s white ‘n’ stripes.

  7. Sounds good however the one thing that I think is just a bit over the top is the bus exterior wash every SECOND DAY!!! Seriously??? Most vehicles get washed about once a month. Seems to be a considerable expense to add (would imagine it would cost something in the region of $5 per wash with a large bus wash. That adds around $500,000 pa to the cost of the bus fleet. Sure we want the buses to look nice (helps with PT if it looks good), but I think once a fortnight would be sufficient unless a bus is dirty for some particular reason. That would reduce the cost to around $250,000 pa (assuming there are certain fixed costs anyway). $250,000 pa is a useful saving.

    1. Most vehicles aren’t driven for 16 hours a day every day (ask your next taxi driver how often the car gets cleaned). Buses get dirty real quick. Driver windscreens, wing mirrors, passenger windows and doors need cleaning for safety and usability reasons, and the rest of the vehicle needs cleaning to protect the paint and surfaces from degradation.

      1. The amount of driving doesn’t really have much impact on this as the bus would be outside either way (as are most cars during the day). Couriers drive just as much as buses and they certainly don’t wash their vehicles every second day! As B Wright says it is more important to have the inside clean and disinfected. Sure having the windscreen cleaned is important (a bus-wash machine does a poor job of this – same as a car wash… you need to do this separately to do a proper job). Bus windows also tend to be high enough up to avoid the much from puddles etc too. I’m just pointing out that it seems a bit of overkill and wasted money.

    2. Yeah, the frequency of ‘clean and disinfect passenger hand holds’ should be switched ‘with exterior bus wash’.

    3. the proposed cleaning regime will increase costs and reduce operational flexibility, first by requiring more cleaning staff then by requiring all buses to return to the depot during the day to be cleaned

      I know that with one of the companies, buses come in after one portion of the duty, are fueled and go straight back out into service, requiring an interior clean daily and an exterior clean every other day (in summer?) would reduce the operator’s ability to utilise the fleet effectively

      and an annual polish? some of the new colour scemes are being applied with a wrap, is this technology compatible with polishing

      then there’s the external advertising money grab, shameless

  8. This new contract sounds like a quantum leap from where we currently are and shifts the rewards more firmly in favor of AT, which should assist in making the whole network work better.

    Given the capital costs and the lead times, I see this round of contracts as a minimum standard that will iterate over time to improve the whole network, the hard part is getting started and setting the expectations clearly, which it seems like the PTOM does.

    Once again more pain in getting to where we want to go, but a great step/leap.

  9. Wifi and USB? It’s all a bit 2010, isn’t it? Even now wifi is less of a draw than it was, as people have more and faster mobile data available, and phone batteries are getting better too, making it pretty unlikely people would feel a need to go to the hassle of charging their phone on a short bus journey. And that’s now. This process is for buses being introduced in late 2016, and to run for many years.

    1. Good for students etc with cheap phones and plans cuz have no money. My daughters phone dies after a long day at uni and so can’t txt us when to get picked up in the pouring rain.

          1. If buses are required to, why shouldn’t uni’s!

            If fact unis much better placed given the use of laptops and that a lecture is 1 hour so much better timeframe for charging.

    2. Connectivity and power for personal devices is the running water of the 21st Century: every public service need to offer both: Libraries, Education, Transit.

      This offer has revolutionised Libraries and it will certainly do no harm to Transit too.

  10. “support of behavioural shift towards increased levels of public transport patronage, walking and cycling” – Hopefully this can manifest in bike racks on buses

        1. Sure, if your bus goes once an hour with seven people on it great, have bus racks. If it’s the Dom Rd bus with 70 people on it then we don’t want to waste 20s each while you tie your bike onto the rack.

        2. Can they add in that one entire side must be longitudinal seating only between the front and rear doors on all FSN buses. Sick of having to do si do shoulder to shoulder with everyone else on the bus every time I get on.

  11. Still need bike racks on buses, removal of contoured seats that dig into my back. I really can’t stand the constant, extremely loud announcements on the train or the door alarms, so to have buses with speakers for ‘advertising’ is likely to annoy me a lot.

  12. This looks excellent.

    I hope that there is provision for an update in 5-10 years time to lower noise and emissions standards. The price and range of hybrid and electric buses continues to improve, and these technologies offer genuine improvements to users and Auckland as a whole.

    Similarly, USB is the current de-facto standard, but USB-C has been adopted as the following standard and will probably be the default within 5 years. Luckily, it’s backwards compatible, so we should be able to update the plugs.

  13. Keen cyclist and PT user here, but sceptical about bike racks on buses which one commenter advocated. Significant delay hooking and unhooking, for the convenience of up to 2 people, delaying maybe 50 others. And because there are only 2 spaces on the rack, you can’t trust there will be a space free (speaking of Canberra’s design here).

    Maybe focus on bike cages at suitable points plus racks on some key routes. No need on every route given that a ride-up catchment area is naturally much bigger than a walk-up catchment area.

    1. Agree John. Bike racks on buses are probably ok in places like Waiheke, where ridership is low and recreational bike use is high, but terrible on high demand routes, the delay for the majority of bus users is too high a cost for the small benefit.

      The rail network is available for long journeys with your bike, although again it’s probably not great to take your bike on at the peaks…

      Better bike storage at stations and stops is a better investment for encouraging combined bike/PT trips, and of course completing the on-street and off-road safe cycling network.

  14. Nothing about security on buses which is of increasing importance these days. Does anyone have the figures of numbers of assaults on buses driver and passengers in past year? I would have thought full internal visibility for driver; overriding ability for driver to control all external open door functions (not able to do so on some models at present); driver radios with full Auckland cover (not at present), to be expected basic safety options for both drivers and passengers. Much more important than usb slots. Though will the drivers area have these as well – as they do not at present and drivers phones run out of when on the road for 9 – 13 hours a day. Drivers increasingly need to use personal mobile phones to contact their depots.

    1. driver radios with full Auckland cover (not at present)

      1) Not a function of new buses. It’s up to the operators, and see 2.

      2) Really difficult, and expensive. I do radio network engineering as a side gig at a very basic level, so I’ve got some knowledge of that of which I speak, and Auckland is a very hard place to cover with radios. The emergency services employ specialists and spend large sums of money to achieve coverage that is not perfect, and they have a life-safety imperative to have a reliable, always-on way of communicating in area-wide emergencies. When I say expensive, I’m talking many, many millions of dollars. Hugely expensive. It is genuinely beyond reasonable that bus operators be expected to have full radio coverage, or even that AT pay to implement such coverage. Auckland’s hilly and bushy, both of which are bad for radio coverage.

  15. Spare me the USBs and Wifis and other trinkets. I don’t know what those seat measurements provide for but all I want is to sit in a seat with my feet in front of me without my knees pressing against the seat in front of me. Too much to ask? Currently there are many buses that don’t meet that criterion, and they’re very uncomfortable – even painful. I am forced to sit sideways which I can’t do if someone is there, and it also hurts because it twists my back and neck. In fact, these bad seats are a health and safety issue.

    If AT is listening, this is something you must address. If the passenger experience is discomfort, all the USBs and wifi are for naught.

    One more thing: flooring and seat tracks. Be sure to use surfaces that are not slippery when wet. Another serious hazard.

    1. Yes, legroom is an issue for me. Also the narrow width is an issue if you get two bigger people. It occurs to me that the current 2 – 2 configuration should be just 2 – 1, allowing seats to be wider with more room for standees / walking down the aisle.

    2. Minimum spacing between seats of at least 690mm, with at least 300mm of legroom.
      I’m 185cm (6’1″), so not wildly tall, but definitely above average. Assuming that 690mm is the same measurement as airlines use to determine “seat pitch” (distance from a point on the back of the seat to the same point on the seat in front), I’ll have about 30mm of clearance from my knees to the seat in front if the seats are a mere 40mm thick. That’s pretty tight.

      1. I’m barely 6-0 and have to jam myself into those compartments. I’d rather stand because of that, but the narrow aisles make that awkward, too.

    3. I should note that I am 5’10″/178mm, so not tall. There is a clear trend of people getting taller and, in some cases, wider*. Those buses are going to be in service for 15-20 years and may become uninhabitable. And the comfort of the passenger is more important than the capacity of the bus. Capacity should be determined by number and size of buses and headways, not seat pitch that makes life comfortable for your local physiotherapist. (If capacity requirements mean that only uncomfortable seating is allowed, change the requirements. Somebody at AT has to think like a passenger, not a transportation manager/bean counter.)

      *Which is why we’re screwed when it comes to airline seating.

  16. Will all the buses on the New Network be required to be accessible for people with disabilities? Or at the very least, indicate on the timetable which buses are accessible and require the bus companies to provide suitable buses (+ penalties for failure to provide contracted accessible buses). In Vancouver, 100% of buses are accessible but here in South Auckland and West Auckland often the bus companies will put on a non-accessible bus on an off peak hourly service.

    1. Have you seen the new arrivals board at stop 7162 on Symonds St? It shows if the arriving bus has wheelchair access. Oh, and it shows the approaching buses on a map.

  17. It would also be nice if the exhaust stack was routed to the top of the bus instead of out the side where it blows hydrocarbons in the faces of people on the footpaths.

  18. Allowing that wifi, usb, seats fit for purpose etc have been covered well above …..

    the one thing that struck me was “separate Saturday and Sunday timetables” this was the chance to move out of the 1950’s mentality & have at the very least weekday peak, weekday off peak & weekend timetables ….

      1. Well, blame our deregulate-sell-off-and-forbid-councils-to-do-different laws and politicians from the 80s, 90s and 00s (Rodney Hide and John Key) for Councils not having bus fleets.

        1. Oh, I’m under no illusions as to where the blame for that lies. But it’s a very significant difference in how easily a city can direct change in its public transport system. Auckland has something like seven bus operators handling scheduled routes, all of whom have a legitimate profit motive (the legitimacy of that motive being available in this context is a different matter) that must be considered when carrying out reorganisation.

        2. The Yellow Bus company was sold by the Regional Council in the 90’s but Howick & Eastern and Birkenhead Transport are both private and have been for over 60 years. There has always been private bus companies in Auckland, even before the Bridge!

  19. Do I read it correctly that a “standard bus” is meant to provide 9 standing spaces? That’s ridiculous in this day and age when every second bus (or perhaps even more) in peak time goes to “BUS FULL” (I still haven’t quite figured out where that is, as they never stop for me)… Why not remove forward facing seats from the front of all standard buses, change them to longways and provide more spaces by making them standing ???

  20. Why doesn’t AT and Auckland Council bring in a new bylaw to allow Buses to be able to exit Bus Stops and that other motorists must give way to Buses exiting Bus Stops? They have this law in operation in Australia . The amount of times during peak times and Weekends on HBC network that passengers have missed their connecting service because the Buses were unable to get out of Bus Stops until all traffic had passed by?. We are in a need for a review of the Rode Code and Law for this reason.

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