Good news yesterday with the government announcing a huge road safety programme that they expect to prevent 160 deaths and serious injuries a year and all for the cost of about one motorway project.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter today announced a $1.4 billion, three-year programme to make New Zealand’s highest risk roads safer.
The Safe Network Programme will make 870 kilometres of high volume, high-risk State Highways safer by 2021 with improvements like median and side barriers, rumble strips, and shoulder widening.
The programme will target an estimated $600 to $700 million of state highway safety improvements and $700 to 800 million of local road safety improvements. Once complete, the improvements are expected to prevent 160 deaths and serious injuries every year.
Phil Twyford said the Safe Network Programme will build urgent safety improvements on our roads at scale and pace over the next three years to save lives.
“Drivers will inevitably make mistakes and it’s the government’s job is to stop those mistakes turning into tragedies.
“This year, far too many New Zealanders have lost their lives or been seriously injured in crashes that could have been prevented by road safety upgrades,” Phil Twyford said.
Julie Anne Genter said, “our Government believes it is unacceptable for anyone to be killed or seriously injured on our roads.”
“Annual road deaths in New Zealand increased from 253 just a few years ago in 2013, to 378 last year. The number of serious injuries increased from 2,020 to 2,836 per year over the same period.
“No other industry accepts hundreds of people dying each year as normal. No person I know thinks losing a loved one in a crash is an acceptable price to pay for living in a modern society – that’s why we’re making safety a priority.
“Local councils will be offered a higher level of central government funding to fix high-risk, local and regional roads. Over half of all fatal crashes happen on local roads and we recognise central government funding will help make these roads safer sooner,” Julie Anne Genter said.
A programme of local road safety projects is already under development with the first projects expected to begin next year.
The NZ Transport Agency will also speed up the time it takes to deliver safety projects by fast-tracking the approval process for standard, proven safety improvements. Applying the new fast-track process on projects like the State Highway 1 Dome Valley upgrade would have shaved nine months off the project timeframe.
“Regions with the highest rates of deaths and serious injuries – Waikato, Auckland and Canterbury – will be prioritised in the first year of the programme. It will then be rolled out to other regions including the Bay of Plenty.

This is clearly a topical time of the year to talk about road safety as we’re a week away from the summer holiday period, which based on previous years, will see 10-20 people killed and about 400 people injured.

The map below shows approximately where the money on State Highways will be spent. The colours represent the different NZTA operational regions.

The types of changes that we’ll see include:

  • fixing dangerous corners
  • installing roadside and median safety barriers
  • shoulder widening
  • further safety improvements for high risk intersections
  • rumble strips
  • improving skid resistance
  • improving rail level crossing safety
  • setting safe and appropriate speed limits.

On top of that, these projects are going to be fast-tracked through the approval process

The NZ Transport Agency will also speed up the time it takes to deliver safety projects by fast-tracking the approval process for standard, proven safety improvements. Applying the new fast-track process on projects like the State Highway 1 Dome Valley upgrade would have shaved nine months off the project timeframe.
“Regions with the highest rates of deaths and serious injuries – Waikato, Auckland and Canterbury – will be prioritised in the first year of the programme. It will then be rolled out to other regions including the Bay of Plenty.

The table below shows the projects already under construction.

Region Project Delivering Safety Benefits Expected Completion Date
Central North Island SH3: SH37 to Te Kuiti Safety improvement project delivering 14 km barriers, 10.6 km line marking, signage improvement, shoulder widening. February  2019
Central North Island SH27: SH26 to SH24 Safety improvement project delivering 19.5 km barriers, 138 km line marking, signage improvement, shoulder widening. November 2018
Central North Island SH1B Taupiri to Gordonton Section 3 Safety improvement project delivering 1.8 km barriers, 36.5 km line marking, signage improvement, shoulder widening. November 2018
Central North Island SH1: Cambridge to Piarere Safety improvement project delivering 2.8 km barriers, 11 km line marking, signage improvement, shoulder widening. May 2019
Central North Island SH23: Waitetuna to Raglan – Stage 1 & 2 Safety improvement project delivering 2.2 km barriers, 43 km line marking, signage improvement, shoulder widening. August 2019
Lower North Island SH57: SH1 to Shannon Safety improvement project delivering 14 km barriers, 42 km line marking, signage improvement, shoulder widening. December 2018
Lower North Island SH2: Wairoa to Bay View Safety improvement project delivering 8.5 km barriers, 30 km line marking, signage improvement, shoulder widening. August 2019
South Island SH7: Waipara to Waikari Safety improvement project delivering 6.3 km barriers, 40 km line marking, signage improvement, shoulder widening. June 2019
South Island SH74: Marshlands to Burwood Safety improvement project delivering 6.5 km barriers, 10.6 km line marking, signage improvement, shoulder widening. May 2019
Lower North Island SH2: Pakipaki to Waipukurau Safety improvement project delivering 13 km barriers, 37 km line marking, signage improvement, shoulder widening. December 2019

And these are the projects expected to start soon

Region Project Delivering Safety Benefits Expected Start Date
Upper North Island SH16 Brigham Creek to Waimauku Safety improvement project to improve safety and efficiency for road users on the stretch of State Highway 16 between Brigham Creek and Waimauku in Auckland. Currently in design. Quarter 2 December 2018
Upper North Island SH1 Dome Valley Safety Improvements – Stage 1&2 Safety improvement project delivering 6km barriers, 39 km line marking, signage improvement, shoulder widening. Estimated Construction start early 2019
Central North Island SH23 (Hamilton to Whatawhata), NSRRP Safety improvement project. Quarter 2 December 2018
Central North Island SH2B/SH50/SH50A Hawkes’ Bay Expressway Safety Treatments Safety improvement project, will deliver median barrier. Currently out to tender. Quarter 2 December 2018
Central North Island Waitara to Bell Block Route Imp: SH3/3A to Waitara Safety improvement project that includes wide median barriers, right-turn bays and left-turn lanes, roundabouts and wire rope barriers. Quarter 3 January 2019

The only people who appear not to be happy about this news are those in the National Party who still pine for a few very expensive motorway projects

National’s transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said the Government’s announcement was weak, would not reach far enough, and had no benefit for regional areas.
He questioned the safety of single lane highways “with a line of sticks separating traffic”.

Perhaps Goldsmith could start by looking at the evidence, for example in the wire rope barriers that were installed on the Centennial Highway north of Wellington have had a dramatic impact on deaths and serious injuries. This from the NZTA:

A 3.5km long median safety barrier was installed on SH1 Centennial Highway, just north of Wellington, in 2005. This was a particularly treacherous piece of road – in the 4 years to 2000 it recorded 8 fatalities, 2 serious injuries and 7 minor accidents. Between 2001–2004, the passing lanes were removed and road markings, reflectors and signs were increased yet it still saw 4 fatalities, 2 serious injuries and 2 minor injury accidents.
In the four years from 2005 to 2009, following the installation of the flexible median safety barrier and lowering the speed limit to 80kph, there were no fatal and no major injury crashes, and just 3 minor injuries recorded.
Between 2005 and October 2015, the Centennial Highway barrier has been hit over 100 times without a single death.

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73 comments

    1. Is there any evidence that raising the driving age will help?
      Due to the minimum time periods between each stage of the graduated license process, you’re doing well to get your full license before 18 anyway. Not having a drivers license is often a major barrier to participating in society. Particularly outside of the main centers where public transport is nonexistent. You shouldn’t advocate for raising the driving age unless you have robust scientific evidence that the gains in youth welfare from reduced road trauma will be worth the losses in youth welfare from reduced access to employment, education, healthcare, recreation etc. It’s hard enough being a young person in NZ as it is.

      1. Haven’t you heard of public transport. Raising the age to 18 would encourage more people to use PT. a lot of people might not even bother getting a license.

        1. Master Chief – Maybe in Auckland & Wellington you’re right. In regional and rural NZ, there is no PT, so it will limit partipation in work/study and social activities to raise the driver licensing age.

          1. I live in rural area in a country where you can’t drive until you’re 18, kids here manage it, I’m sure kiwi kids could as well.

    2. It’s far better to have people go through the learning process while they are still at home and able to clock up the driving hours with their parents and borrowing their parents cars.

      I’ve always thought it should have stayed at 15, with a two year minimum before getting their restricted licence.

      1. This assumes that parents are good teachers. But unfortunately bad driving habits get passed down through the generations. Which is why we’re such an impatient, tailgating, corner cutting, blind crest and corner overtaking nation with a road crash death rate that confirms how badly we drive. The learning process should be much more rigorous with mandatory professional lessons. We should emulate Northern Europe in that regard.

        1. Agree with you both, parents can pass on a lot of bad habits. I think even if we had mandatory tuition, it would be good for it to happen when the learners are still living at home so they can clock up the driving hours.

  1. Goldsmiths comments were hilarious. They really have no clue. Sure it would be great to build four lane highways everywhere but how would he propose to pay for that for 900km of road? And he says it has no benefit for regional areas? The whole country benefits!

    1. I agree with you. The State Highway and regional road networks have had years of reduce maintenance at the expense of National’s RoNS. Upgrading State Highway and regional road networks to knock out the kinks and make they them safer is the better option.

    2. Yes, Goldsmith’s comments sounded particularly weak and came across just as a pathetic knee-jerk reaction. Using the line “they’re only making them safer, but are doing nothing to make them faster” comes across as a rather large foot-in-mouth comment. He just has no clue….

  2. If it is barriers and other measures are to be built into the length of the Dome Valley then this will be the best life saving money spent since the barrier down the Harbour Bridge. I note it is only 6 km though so the life saving part is already badly compromised.

    And honestly, what is a coat of paint on the road going to do, basically nothing but is a hollow gesture to pretend something has been done!

    That highway is legendary for its death toll, its appalling surfaces, corners and general awfulness.

    Its hard to believe such a poor quality road is part of the State Highway system, much less State 1

    1. Last time I was there that road struck me as quite windy, but not particularly poor quality.

      But, spot the discrepancy → https://www.google.com/maps/@-36.3634234,174.611413,3a,48y,322.42h,84.04t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1szhqXXHypEABzjlhv6vWnHg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

      And line markings, maybe they will paint a double yellow in bends like this → https://www.google.com/maps/@-36.3492477,174.5731506,3a,75y,134.95h,92.43t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1syn-7hBmk54AVR-91-klLUA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

      1. There is nothing particularly unusual about it in an NZ context, that main difference is the volumes that it carries. I imagine they would be far greater than any other similar road, which is why it has such a bad accident record.

        The only similar one I can think of would be SH1 Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay, which was solved with a median barrier about 15 years ago. Hard to believe there has been so little extension of median barrier coverage since then.

        1. Not hard to believe when you consider that we had 9 of those 15 years under National whose only interest was in channelling money into RoNS.
          And ironically one of those RoNS (Transmission Gully) is bypassing this rare bit of SH1 which has already had the median-barrier safety-improvement.

          1. In fairness Labour were in for six of these years and had a big influence on the first couple of years of the roading programme after that. NZ has had an aversion to anything in between a four lane grade separated expressway and a two lane highway with a few passing lanes.

      2. I can assure you the surface is terrible in places, uneven with quick repair over quick repair degrading in nature.

        About all you can say is its sealed.

      3. @ roeland – To me the absurdity in these views to is the 80Km/h general speed-limit sign followed immediately by a curve which has a posted advisory speed of 65Km/h.

        I would much rather see all advisory speed signs turned into mandatory ones and enforced. Therefore the “80” sign in the first view would become “65”, and the next “80” sign would only be displayed once you are past the section for which 65 applies.

        This unambiguous way is how things are done on the railways. Thank goodness train drivers are not allowed to take curves at a speed significantly above recommended, just because they personally ‘feel’ it is ok.

        1. Well, except, my understanding is that the posted advisory signs for corners are really only for vehicles like trucks, with significant high level load. Trucks could tip over if they go above the posted limit – cars generally would be OK.

          For most cars, those advisory signs mean that you can easily and safely drive round the corner at a speed higher than that…. unless they’re doing more than twice as fast as indicated.

    2. And there is nothing about Dome Valley that doesn’t prohibit gradual upgrades to straighten / flatten the existing road. A couple of short tunneled sections and bridges would go along way.

  3. This is great. Especially that it’s targeted at the roads that need it the most (unlike RONS, which built a few short and very safe roads at the expense of many long and unsafe roads). Hopefully it shows results quickly so 2019 can be a significantly safer year on our roads.

  4. I think if you added a line to the chart highlighting the period of National’s Roads of National Significance program the correlation would be obvious. Take a drive north from Puhoi to Warkworth to see the environmental carnage being predicated in that program’s name and all together it’s as misguided a policy as National’s previous attempt to do something Nationally Significant – Think Big!

  5. Why SH1B Taupiri to Gordonton, when $940m is being spent on the parallel expressway? Some of these are schemes National had already announced, so even less reason to criticise them.

    1. I’ve used the SH1A/1B bypass round Hamilton many times over the years and I have never known it to be congested or even particularly slow. Not even on holiday weekends. What justification is there for spending extra on this road when there is already an expensive expressway through the region performing much the same function?

      1. These are safety improvements not speed improvements so it doesn’t matter if the road is not congested or slow.

        However, the fact it will no longer be a state highway in a couple of years, does raise the question of why it needs an upgrade. If there are still safety issues when it reverts to being a collection of local roads then manage them with a speed limit reduction.

      2. The Hamilton (east) expressway, along with the Huntly bypass, will take a lot of traffic off Sh2. That’s a worthwhile benefit.

  6. There doesn’t appear to be many median barriers being installed as a result of this, only the Hawkes Bay Expressway and SH3 north of New Plymouth unless I’m reading it wrong. These improvements will be good, but not quite the widespread introduction of median barriers that Julie-Anne Genter was suggesting a few months ago.

    Also does anyone know what the typical ratio of deaths to serious injuries is? Just trying to get an idea of what proportion of DSIs are expected to be eliminated as a result of this.

      1. Thanks, so looks like it will save around 20 lives a year. A good start but I hope they have a lot more up their sleeve if they are serious about lowering the road toll.

        1. Another key tool will be reducing speed limits on many of the sub-par 100kmh roads around the place (remembering that over 80% of them have calculated ‘safe & appropriate speeds’ of no more than 80kmh). Relatively cheap to implement in terms of physical cost, but potentially a little challenging process-wise at present. I gather that the Ministry is looking at a speed management package to bring to the public in the New Year.

  7. Hopefully they don’t remove passing lanes (and actually add passing lanes). Sweden has gone for a 2+1 approach which is what we should be doing.

      1. Passing lanes can be safe and are certainly much safer than overtaking on the wrong side of the road. People get frustrated driving 10-20kph below the speed limit and if there aren‘t passing lanes available, they‘ll just overtake where they can. If we want a safe roading system and we don‘t think we can afford to upgrade high volume roads to dual carriageway, then we need frequent passing lanes.

        1. +100 Bevan.
          Making it impossible to overtake where it is reasonably safe to do so only means people overtake where they can even if it is less safe. This is why pretty much any setup with barriers needs to be do in conjunction with extra passing lanes (no, not necessarily the whole length just regularly.)
          Also importantly if a road has barriers installed then it no longer has a head on risk so should have a faster speed limit allowed and certainly not reduced from 100 to 80 as has been the case so far.

          1. “as has been the case so far”

            No it hasn’t. SH3 from Hamilton to Awamutu, the Brenderwyns, and the (now removed) longswamp section of the Waikato Expressway, and Heavens Double on SH2 all retained the 100km/h speed limit when central barriers were added.

            That being said, many of the places central barriers are added should also have 80km/h limits, especially centennial highway. These roads are the most dangerous roads in the country.

          2. I agree passing lanes are an important part of any road with a wire median barrier, the barrier mitigates one of the issues where people try and get past right at the end of the lane and end up crossing into the oncoming lanes.

            My issue with passing lanes is they end up being an informal drag strip where the slow drivers speed up and those overtaking go even faster and make reckless decisions at the end of the lane. This is often to get past one more vehicle and have a clear stretch of road for 2-3 minutes before catching up with the next slower vehicle.

            This risk taking behaviour defies belief given how small the gains generally are.

          3. I would go the other way and reduce the speed limit on everthing that doesn’t have a median barrier from 100 to 80. If adding a barrier and other improvementys significantly increases safety then the speed limit can go up to 100.

  8. JAG was on the radio this morning with Guyon Espiner taking about the announcement. She did well except for at one point asking him how many people he thought it was acceptable to have die on the roads. It came across as the same snuck premise BS as when people put it on this website.

    1. It is a valid question though, and one which we refuse to face up to. We know with certainty that if we don’t radically change things then 300-400 people will dies on the roads next year. The fact that we don’t radically change things means that we tacitly consider this figure acceptable.

      Perhaps a better question would be, “How much higher would it have to go before we no longer consider it acceptable and we do something radical to stop it?”.

      Other industries can be shut down for safety-breeches far less serious than this, and remain grounded until an adequate solution is applied.

  9. What I find interesting is that the uptick in total crashes… which is concurrent with the increase in fatal crashes… has occurred in the period since VKT began to stabilise (rather than fall) and then began to increase.

  10. Great real NZ example that one at the end of the post: “A 3.5km long median safety barrier was installed on SH1 Centennial Highway, just north of Wellington, in 2005.”

    1. Yes, that’s an interesting one. For years the NZTA refused to install median barriers on Centennial Highway, because they said that emergency vehicles would not be able to access accidents up the highway. Eventually they did some minor widening and re-marking, and installed the barriers and, as the article notes, no more fatalities have happened. There are still multiple police / ambulance call-outs every day, but the first responders always seem to be able to get through. For a one-lane wide road (each way) it actually seems to work quite well. No overtaking and an 80km speed limit means that it flows continuously, as long as people don’t tailgate. It gets blocked up only at the intersections. Best argument that we should have more one lane roads, rather than less!

        1. My understanding is that the barrier on centennial highway is removable, allowing for emergency services to get access should it be required.

          1. Well, yes – normally after a prang into the barrier there is one slightly munted car, and a row of broken support blades – and the wires flapping loose on the ground. The barrier tends to remove itself in the circumstances…. then that night the authorities slacken off the tension, pop in new blades, and tension it up again.

            Of course, motorcycles argue that they get turned into fettucine, but this has not been borne out so far on Centennial Highway.

          2. Guy M: Indeed, it has not been borne out anywhere here or worldwide. Some people cite a NZ rider killed in 2007 from horrific injuries with a wire-rope barrier, but neglect the fact that he was determined to be travelling at least at 150kmh when he crashed – at that speed you wouldn’t survive hitting any kind of barrier unprotected.

      1. Thanks for the extra detail. Aside from the barriers & slight widening, it does seem that for all but the very best roads, 80 km/hr does make for better flow overall as so many will feel more comfortable at somewhere more near the lower speed anyway which is perhaps the natural speed for a lot of our roads. The consistency of it rather that accelerating and decelerating etc makes things safer in itself.

        1. Without the risk of a headon collision (due to the barriers) is every reason why the speed should go up… not down. Most people are more than comfortable driving at 100km/h and quite frankly in a modern car if you can’t do that then really you shouldn’t have a licence or be driving on the road due to incompetence.

          1. Given the road toll statistics I suspecty that there is often a difference between someone who is comfortable driving at 100 because they think they are more than competent to do so and reality.

            Most people think they are an above average driver. The law of averages dictates that they think they are a better driver than they really are.

          2. If you have an alignment as winding as (say) Centennial Highway north of Wellington, then I still wouldn’t be putting in a limit higher than 80kmh, even with a barrier. I note that some sections of undivided winding highway south of Kaikoura are getting 60kmh limits, and this was also quite common on some of the gnarlier bits of the Great Ocean Rd west of Melbourne too.

  11. I’m not sure if they have included this, but it urgently needs to be done, and the only cost would be paint:

    More arrows on the road. You know those arrows you see near tourist hotspots, reminding them which side of the road to stay on. Easiest, simplest, pain-free way of reducing the road toll. We need more of them. Simple as that.

    1. Has NZTA changed its line on the emergency services thing then? I hear so often “we can’t do [pro-people intervention X] Because Emergency Vehicles”

      (and “because rubbish trucks” and “because buses” justifying overdimension roads, typically in unbussably sprawling suburbs!)

    2. +1 Guy. Very simple/quick/cheap/easy solution that goes some way towards reducing the problem of tourists on the wrong side of the road.

  12. I think Twyford and Co are taking the right approach with this, hopefully we see some gains relatively quickly. Will be interesting to see how they plan to build on this post-2021

    On a semi related note – A friend went to a concert in Auckland recently, and when leaving overheard others talking about Facebook groups that post real time locations of breath testing checkpoints. Presumably they were using them to find a ‘safe’ route home home after the concert.

    If so, it’s a bit concerning, although to be honest I can’t remember the last time I even saw a breath testing checkpoint so they probably don’t have to try very hard…

    1. You’d really expect every approach and exit from any major centre (such as Auckland CC) to have breathalyser testing on weekend nights, every weekend. But I can count just twice I’ve actually seen them in the past 3 years, and I live on a major in-out from the city.

  13. So are the Katikati to Tauranga SH2 people kind of happy with all this, see some questions on Twitter about it? I think NZTA etc have already got works underway for upgrades, safety improvements along here so is not under this announcement? I don’t know what the relative figures of injuries etc are for here compared to some of these other spots.

    1. This announcement included safety improvements from Waihi to Te Puna, which is sorely needed as it is one of NZ’s most dangerous stretches of road. The locals have been campaigning heavily for safety upgrades so this should satisfy them… Unless, while they claim they want a safer highway, what they really want is a 4-lane expressway so they can commute to work in Tauranga quicker. I guess we’ll see if my suspicions are correct.

  14. Would like to see some money invested into police resources.
    Three years ago I got stopped at checkpoints for alcohol and license around 4 times a year.
    Since 2016 I have never seen or gone through a checkpoint.
    So many unroadworthy cars, so many drink drivers out there who have no fear of being caught.
    We need more checkpoints, more random checkpoints (not always Queen Street at 11pm on Saturday night)
    Unfortunately many people are now advertising checkpoints on social media. One way to stop this is to set up
    ‘decoy’ checkpoints – you think you’re about to go through a checkpoint but you’re waved through. Then you drive 2km up the road and then you meet the real checkpoint.

    1. The roading police are all too busy sitting on the side of safe motorways (or the end of passing lanes) revenue gathering for people doing 105km/h rather than getting unsafe cars/drivers (no WoF/unlicensed/drunk/drugged/no seatbelts) off the road. Why? Because it’s easier, makes more money for the government (any government), and meets quotas.

      1. Agreed, sir. I remember one year when my friend was fined $40 for doing 51km/h.

        2 ways we could solve this issue:
        – There are many CCTV cameras around the city now. We could use these CCTV cameras to catch cars without Regos or WOFs, and cars that are tailgating other cars (this is a common cause of crashes)
        – incentives and quotas for police to catch XX number of drink drivers per month or XX number of expired WOFs per month etc.

        1. Quotas should be for interactions with the public, not for XX number of offenses/tickets. Interactions can be positive as well as negative, and definitely should not always need a ticket at the end of them.

  15. I am confused. First, a couple of months ago the price of petrol went up and I assumed that the Government would be thankful that this might reduce vehicle travel and therefore carbon emissions, which would be helpful in addressing the “major problem of our generation – climate change.” Instead the Government launched an inquiry into why the price of petrol is so high.

    Now, with supposedly a focus still on reducing emissions through less vehicle movements, which should inherently make our roads more safe, the Government is spending more on roads.

    But maybe you say it better Patrick, more cars and roads, the more injuries and deaths.

    Sadly we still have a transport system that is (or if you prefer, was) largely rooted in the 1900’s.

  16. Do not be confused. Reducing carbon emissions because VKT reduces because petrol prices increase is unlikely to be an effective solution to significantly reduce climate change. It’s just pissing about on the periphery of the problem.
    Effective climate change measures concerning transport need a govt to set a soonish date for ice powered vehicles, especially diesels, to be banned from our roads.

    1. Bogle, simply not going to happen anytime soon because: there are not enough ev’s: there are not enough batteries; if there were enough ev’s they wouldn’t be affordable; if these problems were resolved NZ does not have enough electricity currently; and if the country had the resource to fix all this then we certainly wouldn’t have enough resources to fix congestion, just as we don’t now.
      A huge part of the solution will be reducing vkt by having hugely more people using public transport. Even AT seems to think that reflected in their huge investment in light rail.

  17. Great ‘Home free’ service offered by AT on 21st after 4pm. Let’s hope it gets some potential drunk drivers off the road. If it’s successful it would be nice to see it extended to other nights

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