We have been very critical of NZTA’s approach to communications for the light-rail project they’re now leading. That’s because their approach has mainly been to not actually do any communications, and to allow misleading and incorrect statements to generally go unchallenged. On Friday though, NZTA finally stirred into life with a Herald opinion piece from Chief Executive Fergus Gammie:

As a responsible Government agency, the NZ Transport Agency’s job is to thoroughly investigate the case for Light Rail between the city centre and Mangere. While some people are speculating about what light rail may or may not be, we are getting on with the job.

We’ve been drawing on the expertise of transport and urban development professionals both here in New Zealand and overseas. This includes the likes of Volterra from the United Kingdom, who have provided economic analysis on light rail projects from London to Kuala Lumpur to Adelaide. Systra, a transport consulting firm based in France, has been a part of the development of more than 40 light rail lines worldwide. We’re also working with LUTI, who’ve worked on light rail across Australia.

Given the only information NZTA have released on light-rail so far has a couple of very high level brochures and an extremely basic webpage, it will be really interesting to see the results of all their detailed technical work when it eventually is completed and gets released. Volterra’s Paul Buchanan led the business case for London’s CrossRail project, so it seems some of the world’s best advisors are being brought in to help develop the light-rail work. As nowhere in New Zealand has yet implemented modern light rail, it will be important to draw in the lessons from similar major projects that have either been built in recent years, or are currently underway.

NZTA also usefully highlight that the light-rail project is about so much more than just linking together the city centre and the Airport – emphasising the enormous growth potential that exists in the parts of Auckland the project will run through:

The preferred route between the City Centre and Māngere has been developed after comprehensive studies based on two central goals – providing better transport access and more capacity to support growth in the CBD and wider urban areas.

The City Centre and Māngere, including the airport, represent two of Auckland’s fastest growing employment centres. More than a third of Auckland’s job growth over the next 30 years is expected to take place in the City Centre to Māngere corridor. The communities along the route are currently home to nearly 200,000 Aucklanders and in the next 30 years, the population will grow to an estimated 300,000 people.

They are communities that have large areas of publicly owned land that give us a rare and important opportunity for large-scale redevelopment close to the city centre and the airport.

Light rail will provide greater transport access to suburbs that don’t currently have good public transport options and this will in turn attract private and public investment in new housing developments. It will also connect with walking, biking and other public transport options, giving people much greater choice than they’ve ever had about how they travel.

Finally NZTA also get to the heart of the matter by highlighting how heavy rail costs a lot, and doesn’t achieve anywhere near as much as light rail. Interestingly it also seems like a bit more work has been done that looks at some of the challenges of getting heavy rail into the Airport area – with it now seeming as though a very long tunnel would be required.

Heavy rail is a much more expensive option and won’t deliver the same urban development opportunities that light rail does. Studies show heavy rail between the airport and Onehunga would cost approximately $2.3-$3billion, and the airport to Puhinui between $1.7b and 2b. Either of these options would serve tens of thousands fewer people who live and work along the light rail route and it wouldn’t ease traffic in the CBD or along the corridor.

Heavy rail would need a rail tunnel through to the airport that would be as long as the City Rail Link, that’s a costly and time consuming project in its own right. Light rail can be built on existing corridors, making it faster and more cost effective to build and that means people will start enjoying the benefits sooner.

Overall, this is a good first step by NZTA into actually talking about the project and giving an insight into how much work is going on behind the scenes to confirm a route, develop the project’s business case and surely a lot of other necessary technical analysis. It will be great when that work is done, so there’s some real information to fill what remains a pretty big information void.

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135 comments

    1. What findings? There aren’t any. This press release from NZTA is spin, assuring us they are a responsible govt agency just getting on with the job.
      No real information, no clues and certainly no detail.

      1. So you missed the complete rebuke that this project is only about the airport? This is the entire foundation of the attack by the handful of obsessives of only one kind of train…. shown to be the triviality it is.

        1. Yes, missed that, didnt look like any ‘complete rebuke’. Please desist from repeating that old platitude that LR is not about the airport.
          It was and still is even if workers transport is how some want to insist its main purpose is. Or is it the same concept that the Puhinui interchange is not all about the airport?
          NZTA dont exactly give an impression of enthusiasm over light rail. I suspect their ‘getting on with the job’ means assuring everyone there is important backroom research happening meanwhile minimum communications and certainly no urgent or soon advanced works.
          Could it be that NZTA are releasing spin to the press while patiently awaiting a new govt? And getting back to their core mission of moar and moar roads and EW link?

          1. Bugger off if you can’t have a rational debate. HR route to airport doesn’t provide access to houses and workplaces in Mangere and Mt Roskill and light rail does. Is that hard to understand?

          2. This project isn’t all about the airport. The airport is simply a strong anchor to a line with huge catchment and various destinations all along its whole route. Airport access is a multi-mode, multi-route issue. Starting with the near term bus shuttle connecting the rail network at an upgraded Puhinu station.

            But sadly a deliberate misunderstanding of this is the whole flimsy foundation on which the complaint of the little group of huffy Foamers rests.

          3. @brendonharre – is your comment for someone else! I didnt mention heavy rail so what is your ‘rational debate’ referring to?
            Im makng a point that NZTA dont appear very enthusiastic about LR.

          4. PatrickR, I have said many times before that there needs to some real progress with LR, some advanced works or some useful short section built and working sometime soon. Years of delay and planning and nzta information gathering junkets only provide the time for more negativity such as the Herald anti LR articles. Eventually we will likely need both LR and HR connections to the airport. This squabbling between LR and HR advocates is probably missing the point that a new Nat govt is probably completely anti rail and will demand more roads and only grudingly fund busses and more busses on bigger roads.
            Who cares if the Mangere LR is not about the airport?
            Just get on with some works happening.

          5. “The airport is simply a strong anchor”

            In effect, the line is like a shopping mall – the CBD is The Warehouse or Kmart, the Airport is the Pak’nSave or Countdown, and Dominion Road is the foodcourt!

          1. I can’t see it being built without all of the buildings along Dominion Road, by your logic, it is all about Dominion Road. Of course, it’s actually just a really sensible, direct transit line linking lots of destinations and origins with transfers or future extensions available to almost all of the city.

      1. Thanks for the link.
        That scoop article is a concern. With opposition like that it sure looks like an interesting ride for light rail in Auckland. So the NZTA piece was just spin in response to the growing anti LR lobby.

        1. It’s not an article, it’s just a press release. Scoop publishes press releases from anyone who sends them in. Anyone could write any kind of made up story or angry rant, and they do, and they publish them.

  1. Yes, good to see acknowledgment from NZTA of some sort finally. Were in not for Greater Auckland I would not have known they were involved all these months.

    At least the argument is put forward that LR vs Heavy rail is substantially cheaper. I don’t know however if I buy in to the inevitability of tunnels for heavy rail though. That line seems like a flimsy justification for the LR preference.

    1. The NZTA Herald piece appears to be nothing more than a facile response to the Herald’s run of anti light rail articles. Despite Greater Auckland constantly refuting these articles (apparently without success) its likely NZTA have been prodded to provide this response. The Herald polls and results showing significant light rail opposition are probably starting to concern the relevant politicans who can see such opposition meaning lost future votes
      If this is the best response NZTA has, telling us they are responsibe and getting on with the job while assuring us ‘studies’ prove light rail is the way to go, then light rail opposition wont be going away anytime soon.

      1. I don’t think lost votes are a major concern. The opposition to LR appears to come from an odd mix of people that would never vote Labour and never vote National anyway, I don’t think it is an issue that will swing an election.

        It’s worth remembering that National have no plans for HR, just to can LR.

        1. I don’t know if that’s how the politicians see it though. If they feel the voices being heard by the public are anti-LR, they might position themselves as anti-LR, even if it wasn’t going to be an election-swinging issue.

          We have the same problem with all transport projects. When you look at specific issues, eg safety, speeds, wish for increased cycling investment, etc, the voice that is being heard loudest in the media only represents a small minority of people.

          Yet politicians have already shifted position according to these unrepresentative voices.

          This is why we need a charismatic and knowledgeable leader who will champion the cause of a better transport network.

          1. Hence, as I have been stating, they need to get on with it and show the benefits as soon as possible.

            This is the thing I am noticing with Twyford and others, fantastict at announcements but seems to be devoid of working out the political risks of not producing benefits of the plan through physical evidence, in other words, having a coherent plan.

    2. It’s only cheaper if you don’t include the Mt Roskill via Dominion Rd to Britomart section. This is where it all falls apart for me, the price has to be Britomart to the Airport, AT and LR supporters can’t only consider the cost for part of it.

      Personally I think both should be built, trams to Mt Roskill and HR from Puhinui. Then we get the best of both worlds.

        1. 3TPH on the Southern (whichever direction works best into CRL), 3TPH shuttle between Airport and Puhinui (or through to Manukau). That way you get the 10 minute frequency, you still get the one seat ride every 20 mins (or an easy change at Puhinui), you provide for the majority of airport workers who either live in East Auckland (Botany etc) or South Auckland and don’t impact on the network (3TPH is certainly not going to be a problem in the network once the 3rd main is built, and it would still service the busy inner 2/3 of the network between Britomart and Puhinui).
          As for the tunnels, there is no difference between building this for LR or HR unless you do plan to run LR above ground (which isn’t the plan so far as I know – I doubt the Airport company would be pleased to hand over around 3ha (6 acres) of land for LR purposes. Also if above ground, is LR expected to have priority (thus disrupting other airport operations), or have to give way (therefore slowing it down)?
          Either way, a large tunnel of CRL magnitude is most certainly not required! At most it would be 1.5 km (but more like 800m from the East and would be cut n cover in a cheaper trench (with hardly any costly services in the way – think New Lynn/DART but even easier). Eventually you could still have LR from the North if you wanted (it’s going to take a decade to reach the airport anyway).

          1. That’s a relatively small improvement over the proposed BRT between the Airport and Puhinui, for a large cost difference.

            The only thing gained is a single seat ride from the CBD and southern line stations to the airport, while a single seat bus ride to the Eastern suburbs is lost.

            Even using the lower estimates of $1b for the rail connection I don’t think there would be a business case to justify this over the bus solution.

          2. Also, last I heard (with the Northern LRT case) it would run surface level from the East direction once clear of the runways (small tunnel in either case). For a Botany LRT line it would be the same. It could go above the road traffic anyway for part of it or all of it as it can be elevated a lot easier (ie actually possible and/or cheaper) than HR after exiting a tunnel.

  2. At least NZTA are doing the publicity work instead of burning through the political capital of their Minister.

    At some point an actual comms strategy would be great from NZTA, rather than just continuing a further fact-free tit-for-tat through the NZHerald.

    1. Yes. It would be nice if the communications strategy would outright ban paltering, too. AT needs a shake up on this, too. I’m tired of asking specific questions, and getting facts returned to me that do not answer my questions. Ask again, and they go silent.

    1. Light rail suits many European cities with much more narrow streets than we have too. It’s just about what you value, and we seem to value car dependency.

        1. Edinburgh, London, Amsterdam, Lyon and Nice immediately come to mind. These are the places I have personally used light rail at least.

          1. And most of those are trams rather than light rail, some are a mix like the London Tram. See my point you’re getting your trams and light rail mixed and using what are tram networks to justify a LR network.

            Edinburg is probably the closest to what we’re proposing, it’s a very slow system. I’ve used it a few times, as an Airport to City Center service it’s hopeless, the bus and taxi are quicker.

            If we were building something like the Copenhagen Metro system I’d jump on the bandwagon.

      1. Everyone here are going on abut LR in Europe he is a youtube video showing 29+ systems in the USA so view it and see what you think :-
        As a lot of them are European designed and possibly built there or USA made

        1. Interesting looking at the street maintenance of the various cities. Also interesting to see the various approaches to car parking along the routes

          1. “Ted F” I posted this to show what can possibly been done from a country that is in love with their mobile tin boxes the same way Auckland is .
            The thing that gets me is the people that post comments about European and Australian systems never seem to want to post video links about the systems they are forever ranting and raving about .
            When I was in San Francisco in “97” I used all but 1 off their PT systems as the day I went to use the LR it had been derailed by a motorbike accident , as they also have a streetcar/tram system I found this was amazing as it ran down 1 of their busiest main roads with no problems with all the cars that were around

    2. That is not how I read it: “The second stage of Canberra’s light rail project could also cost well over double the price of stage one”
      I bet the waterview tunnel stage of the western ring route cost many times what the other stages cost…

        1. And the Sydney system seems to be an overpriced Lawyers dream so if LR goes ahead here shoot the lawyers as they may make more than the job is worth through all the legal fees
          When they originally built the rail from Wellington to Auckland I bet the only thing the was said is “Here’s The Money Now Build It” so why don’t they use that method today

      1. The doubling of costs for Canberra light rail per km was because they want a wireless system past the Parliament buildings and a new bridge rather than using the existing bridge over the central city lake.

  3. So they hire a company whose job it is to demonstrate LR is the solution and, lo and behold, they find LR is the solution! Wow. Solid stuff AT! Spin city.

    1. This is from NZTA, not AT.

      Did you actually read it because that’s a pretty weird mistake to make, considering how many times it’s mentioned throughout

        1. It wasn’t SH 1 that was described as the Holiday Highway – it was the parallel duplicate highway that was proposed that was described as the “Holiday Highway”

        2. If the supposed case for a project (freight from Northland) does not stack up, don’t be surprised when people spot another likely motivation, a smoother trip to conveniently located vacation homes of the decision-makers and their chums. Yes, Prime Minister..

          1. And let’s not forget the traffic it would induce into Auckland, and the disbenefit that would cause throughout the city, undermining all the work we’re trying to do to reduce traffic volumes and congestion.

  4. I would like to read some of those consultants reports on rail, roads, restructuring hospitals, banks, anything, and get a feel for the $millions spent and their analysis and what good value we get

  5. Greater Christchurch are submitting on its Urban Development Strategy. My analysis of integrated land use and infrastructure provision is that Greater Christchurch would benefit from focusing on using existing heavy rail to shape city growth from the north and light rail from the south-west.

    Light rail in Christchurch should be less costly per km because it does not require bridges or tunnels and much of the proposed line is in greenfields -with lower land acquisition and build costs. Costs will be similar to Canberra’s $700 million,12 kilometre, initial stage light rail. There would be considerable land value uplift that could fund a large part of the required infrastructure costs.

    https://medium.com/land-buildings-identity-and-values/greater-christchurchs-future-the-fat-banana-aba0402f16a4

    1. Had a look at your post. One thing I would note it that the centre of business appears to be moving south after the earthquakes, a lot of the new buildings are south of Cathedral Square, so I don’t think the railway station is as isolated as it used to be. Probably not much different than Wellington now.

    2. What I don’t understand is why the banana is necessary. I’m really not clued up about Christchurch, but it looks to me like there’s a huge swathe of land with 1 or 2 storey development and wide, wide roads that could take multiple modes. Why can’t a whole lot of intensification happen without the need for banana-isation? Technically, that is. I realise the political situation is tricky…

      If the land use models assumed all the development would happen centrally, and worked out the travel demands based on that, it might just show the need for cycling and bus infrastructure, no?

  6. Anyone else bemused by the opening words of the article: “As a responsible Government agency…”

    Not to denigrate the many excellent people working there, but it isn’t responsible of NZTA to continue to allow such skewed business cases to be made for roads, fed by grossly inaccurate transport modelling.

    Nor is it responsible to ignore the call for better non-motorised user audits, and for a proper database of pedestrians counts, related to different road devices.

    Nor is it responsible to prioritise traffic flow over safety.

    Improving your communications is vital. But so, too, is improving your practice.

  7. At least the article is more of a push in using train/tram concept for Christchurch. I thought I was the only person in NZ who believe train/tram networks could be a better option for future urban/regional passenger rail options in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and possibility Hamilton.

    1. Tram/train is best suited for cities with an underutilised rail corridor and missing links such as the CBD. Auckland and Hamilton both have a rail connection into the CBD, while Auckland’s rail network is definitely not underutilised, so I don’t think it would be much value in either of those cities.

      1. Yeah so CHCH is a possibility, except the rail resources north are sparse, single track and level crossings. Would need investment there. But assuming that it’s not hard to design all sorts of useful street level Light Rail extensions to the city, Uni, and other population concentrations…. would have been even easier a few years a go of course… Perhaps the problem with this particular idea (as opposed to using conventional rail vehicles for the satellite town) is getting a design that suits both longer distance and local access in the city…?

        1. I think the best approach in Chch would be the one taken in Auckland, make use of existing resources, relatively cheap rolling stock with some basic network improvements to get an HR system up and running.

          As it proves itself further investment would flow, once double tracking and electrification was being planned discussions could be had about whether the new fleet should be tram/train or just trains.

  8. Another selling point of LR over bus based public transport is it should be far more reliable and timely.

    Bus services are at the mercy of their individual drivers, a pool of inconsistency, who can through their driving affect how efficient or slow a service can be.

  9. Extremely disappointed but not surprised that this has not made any print edition of the paper. So those that still only read paper, a particular demographic, are only getting the misinformation of the little clique of conspiracy theorists on this issue… irresponsible for an institution with pretensions to be the publication of record for our city.

    1. And the article is now entirely invisible on the herald website too.

      Although given the absence of any likely category like (most bizarrely) ‘Auckland’, or ‘transport’, or ‘Urban development’, where would you look…..

      These are all issues with a lot of interest…

    2. Like the tobacco industry, the suppliers for the services and equipment to maintain private motoring capability will fight all threats to their gravy train . They are using similar means, such as seeded “expert reports”, sponsoring celebrity influencers, making strategic,(usually untraceable political donations) and creating phoney grass roots organisations.
      The commercial news media by it’s own heavy dependence on advertising revenue from motoring related activities is far from independent in this process.
      When outright opposition has failed, the tactics turn to supporting any delaying mechanism.
      A delay for them is still a victory. A slowed gravy train is better then no gravy at all.
      National Party politicians and the NZ Herald editor have already reluctantly conceded, Britomart Railway Station, Northern Busway, and its extension, Western line double tacking, rail electrification, the CRL but fighting Light Rail is their current battle.

      1. and fighting placemaking, people-friendly initiatives and active mode projects wherever they impinge on road and car precedence.

  10. Good to finally see some communication from NZTA.

    I’m glad they addressed the issues with using heavy rail as well as the associated costs. The only thing I would like them to change is to add links to the reports they mention, not adding links gives detractors more ammo to use against them. e.g. The one that says a tunnel will be needed for heavy rail.

    1. I fear that even providing the links will do little to allay the concerns of non-LR-fetishists that HR has been deliberately over-specified and over-priced to deter further consideration.

      “Studies show heavy rail between the airport and Onehunga would cost approximately $2.3-$3billion, and the airport to Puhinui between $1.7b and 2b. “
      This is more than the cost of the proposed E-W link motorway!!

      “Studies show. . . .” that HR has been costed on unnecessarily gold-plated schemes, not on realistic ones.

      LR may indeed be the preferred solution but it should not require these underhand tactics to sell the idea.

      1. +1. It appears there is no restraint on the level of exaggeration for HR costs when comparing to LR costs. A lot of this inflated HR cost was oft because HR required gentle gradients compared to hilly operating LR.
        I dont know why gradients suitable for 2000 ton kilometre long freight trains were necessary for the airport HR line. But costing it for these trains suited the anti HR protagonists.

        1. You guys still aren’t accepting that there is no HR v LR contest for most of this route at all. It’s LR or bus. And we’ve tried buses and now we’ve run entirely out of capacity in the city for more.

          However the contest for linking the existing rail system to the Airport is conceivably HR or bus. And here there clearly in no contest in terms of cost, there will easily be an order of magnitude difference in capital cost between a bus shuttle from Puhinui or a branch line.

          And then there’s the problem that there is no good running pattern for such branch, certainly not at a useful frequency, or that doesn’t do immeasurable harm to the rest of the network.

          Really, this one needs to be let go, extending the HR network directly to AKL Airport is simply not the best option how ever you weigh it. And there is no conspiracy; it just isn’t the right tool for this particular job in this place.

          This is no slight on the wonderful job it is doing elsewhere and will do even more of post CRL and other improvements. It will remain the heart of our nascent Rapid Transit Network and grow with it.

          1. Here’s your pattern: 3TPH Britomart-Airport, 3TPH Airport-Puhinui as shuttle (or Manukau). Gives 10 min frequency with single seat ride every 20. Doesn’t disrupt the network (especially once 3rd main built and since it still serves most of the stops on that Southern Line). Provides better access for the MAJORITY of airport workers who live out east or south.

          2. It would be easier, cheaper and quicker to build and operate a dedicate bus way following the proposed LR route from city to airport and from city to Henderson?

            At least there will be no disruption like laying tracks and power supply networks LR. The positive side is greater utilzation of the bus fleet and no service disruptions due to LR breakdowns.

            Bus motive technology has improved to the level that fossil fuel is not the main motive power.

          3. Kris – this is what National proposed and NZTA investigated it. What they found is that while it is technically feasible it would require buses running less than 1 minute apart, which would create serious bunching issues and would eventually need to be replaced by LR anyway.

            This is exactly what is expected to happen with the Northern busway.

          4. This would work, Kris, on the NW, if they reallocated general traffic lanes to bus lanes. Instead they’re determined to keep the road capacity as it is. LR is narrower, making it a little easier to fit beside the motorway. And it looks like progress whereas more pavement will look like what it is – more pavement.

            Road reallocation is the best way to reduce our carbon emissions, air pollution, traffic danger and congestion. During construction, it would require a whole lot of other measures, like putting on excellent bus services on the other lanes, and banning private cars at peak hour. If they were to make this decision, Kris, the decision on whether it should be light rail or rapid bus, is a much less important one.

        2. Bogle and Dave, how about you do what we’re all having to do with lots of transport issues? Pull the analysis apart afterwards, and help to influence a decision more satisfactory to you on the next project.

          Nothing is analysed on a level playing field at the moment. I’d say it’s all a load of bollocks, actually. But if it’s true on all the other issues that we just have to record the poor processes followed, in order to try to get some accountability later, then it’s definitely true on this project too.

          Let’s work together on modeshift, even if not every project suits every one of us perfectly.

          1. Patrick @ Heidi – I was not commenting above on the relative merits of HR and LR to the airport. I simply reacted to NZTA’s parroting of the overblown costings for HR (and a few provocative comments above that happily take this at face value and swipe at HR before anyone else has even mentioned it).

            When I see: “Studies show heavy rail between the airport and Onehunga would cost approximately $2.3-$3billion, and the airport to Puhinui between $1.7b and 2b.“ , I call this for what it is. Misleading B.S.

          2. Heidi and Patrick, ditto what DaveB says. There is no argument. I wish we could see this LR progress asap. The counter proposal in Herald for express HR via Puhinui is for another time. Get the mangere LR up first then a future generation can re-evaluate if any HR airport link is needed.

        3. Heidi & Jezza – I was thinking of bi-articulated buses that could be used as they are design for high density rapid bus routes using dedicate bus lanes/busways, using on 100% biofuel and carry up to 300 passengers. I was thinking of the Neobus Mega BRT Bi-articulated bus or the AutoTram Extra Grand bus.

          1. It’s hard to see how these would be better than LR on the airport corridor. If they are not double ended then they will require turning space which is a premium in the CBD.

            Unless they are guided then they will require a wider corridor, which will be an issue on Dominion Rd and in the CBD and will increase costs on other parts of the corridor.

            If they are guided they will require the same level of strengthening of the road as would required for LR. There is every chance the guidance system would be just as expensive as laying rails as they are not a big chunk of a projects expense.

            Also biofuel is a big step down from electric, as it still produces local emissions and requires the fuel to be transported from wherever it is produced, probably overseas.

  11. With all this money they have spent on reports , experts and other ideas they could have built and paid for the 1st section from Wynyard Quarter to the top of Queen Street . Instead of spending more on reports that no-one in the streets can understand just start and build the thing and it will then be opened earlier than expected .
    And with the cost of each of these reports the price goes up by millions of dollars

    1. Agreed.

      If NZTA, AT and the Government are so adamant about light rail being the best transport mode for Auckland, they should get the NZTA to take over AT’s Eastern Busway project and build this as light rail instead of a busway. It could be tied in with the CBD to Mangere light rail project as an extension from the airport through to Botany and Panmure via Puhinui, Manukau and Pakuranga.

      Do it once and do it properly from the start!

        1. Agreed jezza, but I’d sooner give light rail proper consideration than rush ahead with a sub-optimal solution. This analysis should be quick so that it doesn’t introduce any delay at this early stage. Equally, a busway to Mangere and the airport might be better than light rail.

          I don’t know the answers, but I think it would be to our advantage to settle on one technology or the other, and build a proper network that doesn’t require unnecessary mode changes.

          1. The work has already been done to compare a busway with LR for the Mangere corridor and imagine it has for the Eastern busway. Given construction is basically underway I doubt there is any meaningful new analysis that could be done that wouldn’t slow this project down.

            LR on the Eastern busway will increase mode changes not reduce it as anyone catching a bus from Bucklands Beach, Howick or the current 711 route would have to change to LR and then to HR at Panmure to get to the CBD.

          2. “I think it would be to our advantage to settle on one technology or the other, and build a proper network that doesn’t require unnecessary mode changes.”

            Technology is irrelevant if the modes – whatever they are – are true RTNs and integrate at various points to provide a network. Changing modes – where necessary (e.g. to change direction/head to another destination point) and provided it is seamless – is little different than changing routes on the same mode.

            This pre-occupation with a single mode is a little perplexing.

        2. Did we ever establish if the Eastern Busway was now completely unable to ever run LRT? It was a twitter rumour but I never remember what the outcome is.

          I imagine most people would be disappointed if this is the case.

      1. They aren’t adamant that light rail is the best transport mode for Auckland, only the line in question. Obviously as they are in the process of building the CRL heavy rail, the eastern busway, various street bus upgrades, a ferry wharf, two light rail lines, etc.

        No one mode suits every route and every corridor.

  12. The two possible outcomes depending on who builds this project. If AT were to do it the job would cost twice what they say it will but it will carry around the number of people they forecast. If NZTA do it the project will be completed for around the budget figure but it will only carry half as many people as they claim.

    1. I just love these scientific pronouncements. Your point is what? Sounds like no one can be trusted to build anything – so I guess your conclusion is we should do nothing at all?

    2. Also if AT run a project that cost blows out then it will be paid for by ratepayers via AC, probably by some special rate levy.
      Whereas NZTA cost blowouts will be covered by the goverment.

    1. There are just so many things wrong with this scoop article. One that stands out is many sratements that this cbd to Mangere will be a slow tram. Forgetting the tram reference as they understand its light rail aka modern trams, there is nothing slow about this LR since its running with traffic control priority and once past Onehunga its own dedicated pathway.
      So why in the very last paragraph say its too slow to be acceptable?
      Are they implying that only a fast express, limited stop service is suitable for cbd to airport? Is it overall travel time is too low because of the multiple LR stations?

      1. Yes, the article is so bad I’d hope most people would sniff and turn away in boredom. In addition to the misconceptions in the article picked up by Helga and Bogle, another of many is:

        “Gammie’s Dominion Road tramline ironically will also do nothing to relieve isthmus traffic congestion and indeed is likely to exacerbate it with the effective removal of such a critical roading artery.”

        The author seems to think the existing lanes of general traffic need to be retained, as if we must be dependent on our cars to use that public space. That’s called car dependency, and Lester Levy describes it as:

        “perhaps Auckland’s most ominous and least confronted problem from a transport perspective… If a sizeable percentage of car drivers do not make a modal switch, congestion will simply get worse and worse and as long as the majority of car drivers assume that the responsibility for modal switching lies with someone other than themselves, the problem of congestion is very likely to persist.”

        Retaining those arterial lanes is how to ensure we never move to a more liveable city with better circulation for people and better places. People need access, for sure. All the children, elderly and disabled people who don’t drive and are sick of being dependent on people who do, need a much better network. And the people who are wishing they could didn’t have to drive need to be able to stop, from the point of view of reducing carbon emissions, if nothing else. For all these reasons, the replacement of general traffic lanes with light rail will aid the network and the populace.

        The author also obviously hasn’t thought through that retaining arterial lanes stops people getting out and about walking and cycling, because the cars make it so unpleasant.The absolutely best place to remove traffic lanes in order to remove congestion on the isthmus is on the busy arterials. That’s where a more space efficient mode is most required. Better people flow. Better access for users. More foot traffic for business. All good.

      2. They criticise the change of mind by the third study by Jacobs. Could it simply be that by having more details and ideas explored & calculated, without the discounted options from earlier studies, we arrive at the LRT via Mangere solution?

        1. Yes, clearly written by someone who doesn’t understand the planning process and has never been involved in preparing a business case or delivering a project.

          There are four main stages to the business case process, from a high level strategic assessment through successive levels of design, testing and costing, to a final implementation strategy.

          The idea you start with is almost never the final result, once you’ve thoroughly designed and costed the options, assessed the operational impacts and evaluated the benefits. Especially as other projects evolve at the same time, which influence your own project.

          They seem to suggest that you should ignore all assessment, evidence and evaluation, ignore any changes in the context or the rest of the newtwork…. and just go with whatever idea gave you the feels ten years ago.

  13. Eternal problem for progressives – those who want to keep things the same are united, but those who want to change things spend all their time fighting each other about how it should be done

  14. I reckon NZTA are sweating the small stuff on Dominion Rd. We should take a leaf out of Toronto’s book:

    https://usa.streetsblog.org/2018/11/13/toronto-cleared-cars-off-a-major-transit-corridor-and-it-worked/

    “The project, which cost just $1.5 million, has produced an 11-percent increase in average daily ridership, and as much as 34 percent at peak hours. Once the street was closed to cars, about 20,000 additional streetcar riders materialized practically overnight, the city reports. Biking, meanwhile, is up by as much as an astounding 440 percent, according to city estimates.”

    When NZTA design the Dominion Rd light rail, they absolutely don’t need space for through traffic. Car access to properties can just share the same space as the light rail. If it’s only a block’s worth of cars accessing the properties, it’ll hardly hold the light rail up. And in return, we’d get plenty of space for cycling and walking.

    Even better, do they really need to wait for the light rail? Imagine all those grumpy bus passengers who wish the express buses hadn’t been stopped? All the buses would be like express buses, if they did this, and they’d need more buses, meaning even better frequency. Let those buses flow. Give those cyclists space. And let those businesses see the benefits of much so much foot traffic in a much nicer environment before they have to put up with the construction of the light rail. At least they’ll know it’s worth it, and be wanting the next stage of improvements.

    1. And from the comments section of that article, “The biggest impact of the pilot was an increase in the reliability of the service. Previously, congestion meant long waits between cars, so commuters were frustrated before they ever boarded.” As I remember it, Dominion Rd was a big grumble spot after the New Network started. AT, you could fix that for those lost / diverted / unhappy passengers right now, while NZTA are designing the light rail.

      1. That’s OK. I’m not suggesting it. What I’m suggesting is that we don’t have traffic lanes in addition to the light rail lanes. We absolutely need cycle lanes, and decent footpaths, and it would be nice to have decent trees and raingardens too.

        Currently, it’s quite on the cards that NZTA are going to not put any cycle lanes on Dominion Rd, and that would be a terrible outcome.

      2. And yes, one of the few accidents my husband’s had has been on tram tracks near Motat. I hate going over them. Other people I know have got their wheels stuck and gone head over handle bars.

        Today, my littlest son wiped out on the way to school, on the wet road. 🙁 He picked himself and all the pieces of bike lights up, and came home in such a state of upset and shock that he went to bed and slept for four hours!

          1. Yes, I worried about that during the night. He hadn’t mentioned banging his head, but I also didn’t ask. Just tended to the wounds. Thanks, I will.

          2. No concussion. 🙂 Sleep probably exactly what he needed, though. The fact that he was able to pick up all the bits of his light was a good sign, apparently, plus the fact that he a clear recall. But Doc also checked his eyes, neck, etc. All good. 🙂

  15. I just get a little tired of PR’s intransigent position on LR to the airport. Also some of the rude comments to malign opponents of the scheme. I think the scheme is a dog too, but I am also a supporter of LR in its place and public transport in general. Let’s talk of the merits and get away from the hype. I know this LR idea has a lot of broad political support, but that does not mean that it is the best way to go. All the virtues of LR are in areas other than serving the airport. LR on Manakau Rd, Mt Eden Rd, Sandringham Rd and Dom Rd are great and will do all that is promised of LR. Less cars and buses on the isthmus. Great. Across to the North Shore. Great. Perhaps from Newmarket along Remuera/St Johns Rd to Panmure and then out to Howick and Botany. Great. But not to the airport. That is a ‘rapid’ rail job, via Panmure with all the connections at Papatoetoe, Otahuhu and Panmure, not to mention Britomart with the NS. 30-35 minutes from the airport. The fastest way. Trying to get LR to the airport really just prevents it going in on the other isthmus routes any time soon. Also stop basing the cost of rail on the Onehunga route and making the dumb comparison with a bus to Puhinui to exaggerate the cost of rail to Wiri. I actually think that it may be feasible to put rail down Don Pearce Dr and out via Laurence Stevens drive, with, perhaps a short elevated station at the terminal. If that were feasible, costs would be really down. And I still say that LR to the airport is trying to kill two birds with one stone which is seldom feasible. You can’t achieve mass transport with rapid transport and vice versa.

    1. “not to mention Britomart with the NS. 30-35 minutes from the airport. The fastest way.”

      If this were true, most of us would probably support heavy rail, even at the increased cost. However, light rail will be faster from the city centre with heavy rail taking a little under 45 minutes from Aotea. Almost everyone who now supports light rail originally supported heavy rail, but changed their preference based on the objective assessment done to date. You are also spot on that some people are being maligned through unsubstantiated allegations of fraud in the business cases to date. Probably worth reconsidering who you think is intransigent, and who you think is doing the maligning.

    2. Transit routes must kill two birds with one stone. Well actually four, five or six birds with one stone.

      Not only is this feasible, it is essential. A rail line of any description that serves only only destination, one trip type, will fail in Auckland. Transit needs to simultaneously serve all manner of different trips from different origins to different destinations in order to achieve the required critical mass of people moving along the same corridor.

      Bollocks you can’t have mass and rapid at the same time. This integral LRT line will move more people than an extended Onehunga branch possibly could, by virtue of it having the full capacity of the new twin track alignment at it’s disposal. Conversely a branch offf the southern line, be that via onehunga or Puhinui, has to share the two tracks of the CRL with three or four other lines… so the capacity gets divided four or five ways.

      Likewise rapid: a PT trip from Mangere Town Centre to Aotea Square currently takes 1 hour 15 minutes. With this line it will take about 35 minutes. Balmoral shops to Onehunga is currently a 37 minute trip, with this line it will be 17 minutes. Etc etc. Thats more than rapid by any measure.

    1. Oh, I didn’t realize that you hadn’t read the business cases! Have a read, it will help you understand why so many people changed from preferring heavy rail to preferring light rail.

      1. I have read those in detail. Nothing objective there, just a deliberately biased and irrational use of unproven costs and estimates to reach a pre determined PT mode solution.
        The business case had universal support? Did it?

        1. Ok, you’d rather believe that a massive global company was persuaded to risk enormous fines for fraud based on no particular reason rather than believing that they found LRT to be objectively better.

          Do you also believe that the world is flat?

  16. Bollocks you can have rapid and mass at the same time. You still haven’t convinced me that the LR via Dom Rd will be less than 55 minutes plus. Of course the current plan is to halve the stops on Dom Rd, so there you go; a blow for mass transport in favour of rapid tpt. The HR option serves Akld destinations via Otahuhu and eastern destinations via Panmure and NS via Britomart. It will also serve the west via the Avondale to Southdown railway if your trams don’t get in the way of that project! There is also the direct routes from the south that could be developed. The LR scheme is just a Mangere to Auckland service. What are the 4 or 5 birds being killed here? You all seem to be well on story, and your reaction is swift and short. Is AT paying you guys to defend this dog or something?? Again business cases stack up, depending on the brief. Could be “…we need a flag ship for LR”, to sell the great cost of same for the other proper use of LR. Could be, we just want the cheapest option?? If the business case is so good, tell us why, because it still doesn’t make sense to me.

    1. You’re right – LR is Mangere to the City and everywhere in between.

      However, Mangere is right next to the airport so why wouldn’t you extend the line to the airport? For a relatively small extension it gives a one seat ride from the CBD (not quick ) and also connects anyone along the route to the airport as well.

      Do you have any evidence the trip wont be as fast as the business case states?

      1. And you are right too. If we have to have the LR to Mangere then there is no good reason to not extend it to the airport.
        Doesnt matter if rapid or not. It will be interesting to see if it becomes popular with Airport travellers or if there will eventually be greater support for a rail CBD to Airport HR line.

        1. I think it will be very popular with airport workers and travelers who live along the line, although the impact of workers will be much greater as they are maybe doing 500 trips a year vs between something like 2 – 20 a year for travelers.

          I expect many visitors on a budget will use it as they wont be too worried about the time, business travelers and more high end tourists will probably continue to use taxis and shuttles as they do now.

    2. I don’t have to convince you. You are the one claiming things will be vastly different from what the transport planners and rail engineers have designed. You need to convince us.

      My answer is swift and short because these reckons have been raised and responded to ad nauseum already.

      Here’s some birds for you:

      1) Central ithsmus suburbs to city (most congested bus route in the city)

      2) Māngere workers to airport (greatest concentration of airport workers)

      3) Mount Roskill to airport (second greatest concentration of workers)

      4) Māngere and favona to city (no rapid transit, currently over an hour by bus)

      5) central isthmus suburbs to Onehunga employment area.

      6) residents of the city, ithsmus suburbs, Onehunga and Mangere to the airport for flights.

      7) tourists from airport to city

    3. ‘Is AT paying you guys to defend this dog or something??’
      Again with the bullshit conspiracy accusations. It isn’t even AT’s project!

      I would love to be payed by NZTA, or anyone, to champion this project, but if that were the case everyone would know about it. I would be a very proud champion. Anyway this is silly:

      You have decided this project ‘is a dog’. Therefore anyone with another view must be corrupt. What an extraordinarily egotistical conclusion. Alternatively perhaps you are mistaken about any number of things here, or perhaps we all are? Let’s stick to discussing that.

      Retrofitting a Rapid Transit Network to Auckland is a complex, multilayered field, my understanding of it and its possibilities, and resultant position on what’s best, has changed over the years (all in public and documented on the site).

      So here I will just lay out a few really important issues that you seem to be ignoring, don’t fully grasp as essential, or are poorly informed about.

      1. The Isthmus and Mangere LR line is mostly not about the airport at all! The Airport is what we call a good ‘anchor’ to a richly populated line, but it remains only one station, and the last one, but no means the ‘be all and end all’ raison d’être of this route. More journeys will be from stations along it to/from either end than from end to end (it also will not be 55mins City to Airport https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2018/05/08/calculating-travel-times/).

      2. Related to 1. City Centre to airport via PT will be primarily served by the rail network and Rapid Bus via transfer at Puhinui. This is clearly the most cost effective, quickest, and most elegant high frequency and networked way of connecting the existing core of the Rapid Transit system to the Airport. There are all ready 5 min frequencies each way (!) through Puhinui at peak. So without diluting existing rail services south (which any new branch line must do) or slowing existing users travel times (which any deviation must), we will, in about 18 months, have 2/3 of all rail services, all southern and eastern line trains, fully functioning as ‘trains to the planes’. This BRT line will also, eventually, head east to Botany and beyond so expediting trips for people there (where many airport workers live). So for City Centre, South, and East, this is the best and quickest improvement for Airport Access, even for North Shore people, though with two transfers.

      3. Continuing 1. and 2. Areas missing out on this airport access upgrade, and, more importantly, desperately missing high quality lines include the Isthmus and Mangere, these areas need better access to the high quality labour and education markets of the City Centre. Add a line through both. Why on earth wouldn’t that line go to the airport before stopping? Where would you stop it? Just before the Airport? These people will also work and travel from there at times. It would be mad to expect them to come into the city centre to get to the Airport, they, like East Akl people are already closer, so send that route there too. LR for airport access will be primo for people all along the LR line, more so than for those at Britomart (though some will choose it for the one seat ride).

      4. Oh and on choice. Some seem to assume that it must be better to extend our current railway than to add new ones. In fact there are two very good reason why this isn’t so: we can add much more total capacity with an additional network than further extension of the current system. LR means four tracks through the City Centre not just the two of the CRL, more capacity more reach, and much much more affordably than a second CRL. But also resilience, problems on either network won’t take the other one out. We already have a lot of pressure on the 1st network and will be relying more and more on it for both passengers and freight (and coming intercity services). It is time to build beside it, not add burden to it, for a great whole system, and greater resilience (and choice). Both will grow better.

      5. Lastly (for now, i have work to do), I am aghast that all the unbending heavy rail or death fanatics in the comments here don’t seem to understand the limitations and constraints of our current rail network. Any new branch service to the Airport or anywhere will have to take train slots from existing services south. Our network is fully stretched, and will be more so after CRL. This means a reduction in service and frequency elsewhere and/or an infrequent airport service. This is more the case if you are talking about a limited stops direct service which you must be with your extremely optimistic travel time (30-35m!). Not only this must mean very few areas served, probably Britomart to Airport direct, very few users, but other services will have to make way for it. Unless you are proposing some whole new grade separate route? Even if that were affordable there are no spare slots in the CRL, and few at Britomart (or rather in/out of). This brings us back to 1. The LR route is all about the ridership along the way. No express service is. Also a premier but infrequent one destination ride will be both expensive and a ridership failure, just an inconvenient oversized shared limo.

      Nick is absolutely correct, in fact i would go further, costly to build Transit systems MUST serve multiple purposes, or are unjustifiable.

      Also AKL is a poly-centric city Airport access is about so much more than shaving a few minutes of one journey from the centre a few times an hour… and the coming transformational Rapid Transit Network is about so much more than one kind of rail system.

  17. Didn’t mean to insinuate corruption or conspiracy theories. Just trying to get my head around why this all seems to get such a swift reaction. Also am writing this at the end of a night shift where I read some disdainful things about others that I didn’t like, which prompted me to have my say. But I still think the best fit for the airport is HR via the waterfront. It doesn’t need to reduce capacity from the south, esp if some sth trains go via the airport and with the third line. I’m sure you have all worked things out, but I feel that if HR can be on the surface then costs are not that bad, and trains from Hamilton and beyond could make use of the route. I also think that workers from all over Auckland could use the HR system to get to work. My big disappointment was when they did not save the corridor for HR via SH20A as I always favoured the route ex Otahuhu. I do fully support LR on the Auckland isthmus on the various routes, and NS,etc. but I feet going to Mangere means the other routes have been disadvantaged.I also understand the need to transpose new rail initiatives to solidify a robust rail system across Akld. I agree with a lot from Greater Auckland, but I will have to remain a skeptic with airport rail at this stage I am afraid. You may get to test your times from the city, but I don’t think I will get to test my times from the city. At least we are all for public transport.

    1. An express HR service from the airport to the CBD is definitely the best for any traveler who wants to do this trip. The questions are:

      1) Are there enough people who fit this pattern to justify the costs involved and to run it at a frequency high enough to make it useful.

      2) Is it the best for the wider Auckland PT network.

      I think it fails on both.

  18. I have been reflecting on recent interactions with Greater Auckland and rants and ravings from a spot of mania from a sleep deprived night shifter. Thought it would be better to try and be a little more productive, respectful and reflective. The latter is oh so hard, as you have to admit, sometimes that you are wr…, wr… wrong. The original spark came from my ongoing respect for the good works of both Mike Lee and Jon Reeves, who have done a lot for PT in Ak over the years.
    So first challenge was to check out the airport to city LR route via Dom Rd. So I made it a bit of an outing with my wife Leigh and our beloved dog Maggie. We drove from the domestic terminal to the Civic in Queen St. I kept to no more than 80kph on the motorway parts, then reduced to 50 kph on the urban roads, or whatever was possible with the traffic. I let the traffic lights do what they do and made no allowance for them. I added about 5 minutes to the Onehunga to Hillsborough section as the motorway here is a bit quicker over this section. I added a minute for each of the proposed stops along the way. The trip occurred during late morning with relatively good flowing traffic. All in all the trip went well at 41 minutes, which fits with said claims of the proposers. Which means I have to say that I was wr…. wr….. wrong! There I’ve said – dammit! Hopefully there will be enough traffic separation to maintain these times at peak hours.
    Next challenge, I completed this afternoon, which was to take the eastern route by train. Could have just looked at the timetable, but this was more fun. It took 32 minutes with 9 stops to Puhinui. Add 10 minutes to the airport and it is 42 minutes. This would reduce to 3 stops on an express service, which reduces the time by 6 minutes 36 minutes. As this did not factor in the slowing down and accelerating away speeds, then there is scope for another minute or two to be saved. Perhaps more, as I noted that there was a full minute of reducing speed prior to a stop, but acceleration was quicker, taking no more than 20 seconds to get up to road speed. So this would knock the time back to my original claim of 30-35 minutes – phew!
    I also see the advantage of the tram (I prefer that term – it’s not derogatory) serving the residents and workers of Mangere, that’s why I always favoured a route via Otahuhu instead of Wiri. Now that that may be catered for I still have two concerns. One is that the trams may interfere with the Avondale to Southdown freight railway, using an important part of the land saved for that purpose. Could the trams co-exist with freight trains as this will be an increasingly important piece of infrastructure in coming years for the freight task? My second concern, is that, as PR said, the LR has never really been about the airport, it is just tacked onto the end of an urban system, so I still feel that HR will eventually be seen as a credible (and faster) alternative. In future as demand grows, It would serve the true airport patrons, but would also serve workers from the north and south as well. It would be a boon for airport travellers from the south, such as Hamilton and Tauranga too. With these thoughts in mind, I think that it would be worthwhile to save land for such a proposal and future proof it for such a use. Also, as there is a plan for a LR system to Botany, would it be feasible to share part of the route to the airport by the two modes. At the airport, I still see some potential for such a line to run on the surface down Tom Pearce Dr and return via Laurence Stevens Dr with a separated U shaped loop at the terminus with LR at street level and HR on an elevated bridge at first floor level (or vice versa). This would be a lot cheaper than $1 billion for trenches.
    Just some thoughts on reflection. I think it is always more productive if people can discuss things and support each other, especially when there are common goals. I have always lamented the fact that the Manukau City Council, through incompetence, and the NZTA, probably through apathy, did not see to it that a route was saved for HR to the airport, which was disappointing as it had been expected. So time to move on and make the best with current opportunities.

    1. Yes, being able to discuss and support each other is important. Good on you, Niall. I won’t answer your questions because I’m no expert, but I know they’ve been addressed before… you’d just have to wade through the many posts on the topic, or see if google can help. 🙂

    2. You are not the only person that has been persuaded to change their mind from advocating from an immediate start from a Heavy Rail connection to the airport, to instead building a Light Rail connection from the City Centre to serve the central isthmus, extended to Onehunga, Mangere Bridge and the Airport, but firstly asap establishing a heavily upgraded frequent bus connection from the airport to the Main Trunk Railway.
      Impressive that you persuaded your wife and dog to keep check on you for your route proving run.
      Look after that sleep deprivation!!

    3. Like you I’m one of the ones who has been convinced of the benefits of LR after originally being a supporter of HR via Onehunga. The thing that convinced me was the connectivity on this route opening up so many more people to the airport precinct, especially when combined with BRT from Puhinui.

      I’ve never been a fan of HR via Puhinui, it just doesn’t add enough to the PT network.

      The LR project doesn’t preclude the Avondale-Southdown link as it is mostly on the NZTA corridor. Where it crosses the Kiwirail corridor, Kiwirail will likely just lease the land and stipulate that NZTA/AT pay for any works that are required if ASL ever goes ahead.

  19. Thanks for the comments. Will start wading now. I start day shift again on Sunday – so not so much crazies from here – I hope???

    1. Good on you for having such a deep look at it! It’s important for some of us (including me) to remember that just because the most ardent HR supporters believ a giant conspiracy theory, most who still support HR probably don’t!

      BTW, if you actually go and have a look at the rail designation for Avondale-Southdown, it only overlaps with the LRT proposal from Dominion Road to Hillsborough Road. Through that section, the designation is still 25-30m wide, so both LRT and HR could run in the future.

      WRT to regional services using a heavy rail link, it’s worth considering whether you would actually want to split the services, even if an HR track to the airport already existed. Say you could justify 4 services an hour between Hamilton and Auckland, would you run two an hour to the airport and two to Britomart or run all four to Britomart stopping at Puhinui for a transfer to the airport?

      1. I certainly favour intercity trains stopping at Puhinui. This will be especially good for people from the south. There are of course trade-offs to consider however.

        It means this ‘express’ while quicker will be infrequent (say 1/2 hourly at best) so for many journeys from the city getting the next metro or light rail service will usually get you to the airport sooner because of the difference in wait time between services; a couple of minutes max for metro/light rail option vs 30 for express (the power of high frequency).

        It also creates issues around seat availability for longer journeys; if the train was to fill at Britomart with airport users then we risk running a largely empty train to Hamilton and beyond. This would likely have to dealt with by ticket price; this service would be at a premium. Which would again incentivise use of the more everyday alternatives…

        So I still see the high frequency train/shuttle and light rail options (depending on where you start from) ruling PT airport access once fully in place… Happily we have only around 18 months for the first of these to be running in its first iteration; trains to the planes via Puhinui.

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