The Auckland Council’s Planning Committee agenda for Thursday highlights councillors received a confidential update to the ‘Auckland Transport Alignment Project’ (ATAP), as well as the draft Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) about a month ago.

These are incredibly important documents, shaping where around $30 billion of transport investment in Auckland will be directed over the next decade. Alongside the council’s 10-year budget, they will be some of the most important documents over the coming three years.

For a bit of background, ATAP first emerged in 2016 when Len Brown was mayor as a way of getting the Government and Auckland Council on the same page when it came to the long-term strategy for Auckland. The first version of ATAP was developed in three parts:

  • A ‘Foundation Report‘, which highlighted key agreed assumptions and a joint view between the Council and the Government on the major transport challenges facing Auckland.
  • An ‘Interim Report’, which provided initial insight into how these challenges could be addressed. One interesting thing to come out of this stage of the work was the emphasis placed on road pricing as critical to achieving a ‘step change’ in Auckland’s transport system.
  • A ‘Final Report’, which pulled everything together to outline a ‘Recommended Strategic Approach’, including a high-level investment package over time.

This version of ATAP, as well as a minor update in 2017 to adjust for higher than originally forecast population growth as well as the need for ‘mass transit’ (light rail) on Dominion Rd, were prepared under the previous National government, which had clashed with Auckland Council time and again on transport issues like City Rail Link. While these first reports can be seen as something of a compromise between the two parties, in a broad sense the Council convinced the Government on key issues like the need for a rapid transit system, the need for road pricing and that we couldn’t build our way out of congestion with more motorways. ATAP therefore represented very important progress.

In 2018, with a new Government now in place, ATAP was updated again. This new version was much more detailed than before and focused on the first 10 years and, most critically, focused on where available funding should go and agreed funding for it rather than just leaving a ‘funding gap’. You can see from the high-level investment split that there was a huge focus on rapid transit, as well as decent investment into other key areas:

We were pretty happy with this plan at the time, especially considering where things had been only a few years earlier with endless arguments over City Rail Link timing and funding. This new plan outlined an aggressive plan to improve Auckland’s transport system over the next decade.

Unfortunately, over the past three years key progress has not exactly been as planned with ATAP being undermined through terrible delivery and inconsistent investment decisions. Let’s run through a few of these:

  • The abysmal lack of progress on light-rail has eaten away at a centrepiece of ATAP 2018, not only delaying any progress on the City Centre to Mangere corridor but also delaying the critically required northwest rapid transit corridor. Relatively minor bus improvements are little more than a consolation prize for the northwest.
  • Auckland Transport has been utterly hopeless when it comes to delivering cycleways, not yet even completing the Urban Cycleways Programme that was meant to be done by mid-2018, let alone getting on with implementing any of their excellent 2017 cycling programme business case, which they’re now revising.
  • Government investment decisions on the NZ Upgrade Programme weren’t consistent with ATAP at all. Instead of bringing forward investment from later in the 10-year period, such as providing extra funding for light-rail or northwest rapid transit – like ATAP had suggested was essential, less important parts of Mill Road were brought forward from later decades and the amount of funding allocated to Penlink was doubled from what was in ATAP.

Meanwhile, the world has changed a lot in three years. We’ve had a global pandemic, new technologies like e-scooters caught everyone by surprise and, at long last, there’s widespread agreement that we actually need to take climate change seriously and dramatically reduce our emissions.

A lot of good work has been done to understand what needs to be done to reduce our emissions. The Auckland Climate Plan provides a bunch of targets that we need to hit to sufficiently reduce emissions.

Vehicle Kilometres travelled by private vehicles reduced by 12% as a result of avoided motorised vehicle travel, through actions such as remote working and reduced trip lengths
Public transport mode share to increase from 7.8% to 24.5%Public transport mode share to increase from 7.8% to 35%
Cycling modes share to increase from 0.9% to 7%Cycling modes share to increase from 0.9% to 9%
Walking mode share to increase from 4.1% to 6%Walking mode share to increase from 4.1% to 6%
100% of Auckland’s bus fleet to be zero emission
40% of passenger and light commercial vehicles to be electric or zero emission80% of passenger and light commercial vehicles to be electric or zero emission
18% increase in fuel efficiency of the light vehicle fleet (internal combustion engine)25% increase in fuel efficiency of the light vehicle fleet (internal combustion engine)
8% of road freight to shift to rail20% of road freight to shift to rail
40% of road freight to be electric or zero emission80% of road freight to be electric or zero emission
15% increase in fuel efficiency of the freight vehicle fleet (internal combustion engine)25% increase in fuel efficiency of the freight vehicle fleet (internal combustion engine)

Needless to say, the scale of change to the transport system to achieve these targets is huge. Anything like a ‘business as usual’ approach will be insufficient by a long way.

The combination of everything above means that the 2021 version of ATAP can’t simply be a repeat and basic update of the 2018 plan. A good plan for three years ago is not a good plan for today. Heidi’s post from a couple of weeks back outlines a whole pile of ideas for how ATAP and the RLTP need to change to meet our climate goals, not just what we need to add to our plans from 2018, but also what we need to remove from them.

Late last year I attended a stakeholder event where we were walked through an ATAP update. We weren’t provided all the details the work was still happening and I imagine there has been some further refinement in the months since. But what I did hear did not fill me with confidence that we are getting anything other than a repeat of the 2018 plan. If anything it is likely to be something even less ambitious, as cost increases for committed projects and ongoing programmes like renewals are outweighing any increases in funding. Furthermore, with terrible NZUP projects like Mill Road eating up a huge chunk of funding, there are actually large parts of the ATAP programme that will be undermining our climate efforts, rather than helping them.

Unless ATAP has changed massively in the past few months, which is unlikely, I fear we are going to see a 2018 plan that’s simply unfit for a 2021 world. If the Council is to support ATAP, then that support needs to come with some significant strings attached. This means:

  • The blowtorch has to go on Auckland Transport for being so useless at delivering cycle lanes – start firing board members and withholding funding for other projects until they turn things around.
  • The Council needs to pressure the Government and its transport agency Waka Kotahi to get its act together on rapid transit. Within 12 months there has to be a full design and funding plan for both the City Centre to Mangere and Northwest corridors that formed the heart of ATAP 2018.
  • The Council must pressure the Government to look again at the NZ Upgrade Programme, especially projects that undermine climate goals and eat up an extraordinarily large amount of money like Mill Road.
  • The Council must demand more from Auckland Transport’s basic programmes like renewals, safety, minor improvements, optimisation and so on – making sure that these programmes help transform Auckland’s network into one that encourages people to walk, cycling and use PT – and discourages them from continuing to drive.
    Related, at a different stakeholder meeting a few years ago, Auckland Transport executives told us that they couldn’t include this stuff in their renewals work due to contractual issues, but that would change when those contracts ended and they looked to reissue them. That process is happening right now but it’s not clear if they’re doing that.
  • The Council must look at its own land-use plans that are encouraging car dependent sprawl and forcing so much of the transport budget to go towards projects that support this sprawl. This will require some really tough decisions like amending the Unitary Plan to cut back on sprawl areas and upzoning existing areas to higher densities, some of which will be required by the National Policy Statement on Urban Development.

In some ways it feels odd that we are likely to be so disappointed by a transport programme that’s similar to one that we welcomed to heartily less than three years ago. But I think this reflects our need to urgently catch up from three years of incredibly disappointing progress in key areas like cycling and light-rail, as well as how dramatically the world has changed over this time. We need a 2021 plan and I fear ATAP isn’t that plan.

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  1. We are three years into the decade that 2018 ATAP touted Decade One priorities for (e.g. the South Western and North West rapid transit corridors). We have no plan, no progress and no updates. These two regions are absorbing a huge chunk of residential development and locking in transit patterns in the here are now, letting them slip into Decade Two (or even Three) is verging on criminal.

    Sadly that’s not even the biggest issue with ATAP anymore. The cycle lanes issue is farcical. Nothing less than minimum rollout targets for each area will do.

    1. It all reminds me of the LGWM process! A lot of talk (and probably some high salaries) and very little action. This country is deeply in the clutches of the oil industry.

      1. It’s got nothing to do with the oil industry in New Zealand (we basically don’t have one).

        It’s everyday people who revolt against any changes that get made, because they can’t (or won’t) process the disconnect between their beliefs on climate change and their incumbent mode of living.

  2. “Vehicle Kilometres travelled by private vehicles reduced by 12% as a result of avoided motorised vehicle travel, through actions such as remote working and reduced trip lengths”
    What about the really simple stuff that everyone can do such as: reducing trips by combing functions (like buying groceries on the way home); substituting driving to the dairy with other modes; for discretionary leisure activities changing transport mode etc
    We simply cannot afford to build our way out of this with park and rides to reduce trip length. The more that is spent on these then the less we have to reduce the fares for the majority.

    1. You will not change these behaviours without some form of incentive. We need fewer cars on the road – so make it more expensive to buy a car and to drive everywhere, make parking expensive, make public transport very cheap, cycle lanes everywhere and cycle purchase schemes through work places, schools, etc. Improve walking.
      People in general are lazy, ill informed and ignorant – they won’t just change. But perhaps we have a nationwide marketing campaign similar to tidy Kiwi – which has stuck with most people for a long time.

      1. I didn’t take John’s comment to mean he’s asking AT to rely on behaviour change. Rather that when we discuss vkt reductions, there are many, many ways those reductions can be manifested in our lives. And that yes, system changes are required to make the choices easy to do so.

        If Matt had given more examples in his sentence it might have got unwieldy, but there are plenty: reduction in chauffeuring, modeshift, combining trips, coordinated deliveries with cargo bike as the last leg from hubs to home or workplace, etc.

        1. Funny that these two got mentioned here:

          – substituting driving to the dairy with other modes
          – reduction in chauffeuring

          We just had an advertisement banned for portraying exactly this.

    2. “…like buying groceries on the way home”

      I’m sensing a rather dim view on the general population here. You think many people are not doing that already?

      Substituting driving with other modes, well, those other modes just don’t work. Our big chunks of pure residential zoning ensure most people have nothing within walking distance. We stopped building bike lanes. And we’re not exactly going strong on PT either.

      Seriously, what do you want people to do? Just stay at home each and every day?

      1. If people wanted to be able to afford to drive anywhere then they should have gotten white-collar jobs they can do remotely so they don’t have to drive anywhere! duh!

      2. Roeland, I am simply commenting on the reality – over 80% of trips in Auckland are by car. Therefore it is unlikely that trips to the dairy. local shops etc are made by means other than car. Our metropolitan centre has about 2500 car parks suggesting that a tremendous amount of vehicle trips occur.
        Am I disappointed that we all aren’t doing better to avoid world climates degenerating? Sure I am, but then too are 63% of those surveyed, with perhaps tellingly those in Italy the most worried because the reality might be that they loose Venice, a national treasure. Maybe if water was lapping more often in the shops and restaurants of say Mission Bay we might be more concerned?

        Are other modes less convenient? I guess it depends what the comparison is.

        1. Well guess harder. For example, why don’t people ride a bicycle more? Could it be because squeezing between parked cars and high speed traffic is unpleasant? What can we possibly do about that?

          Build bike lanes? Yes that will work, but the average punter has zero influence over that. It seems even the city council has precious little influence.

          So, PT then?

          I tried to take the bus to Karangahape Road a while ago. What a pain. The first surprise was when connecting to the red link bus. This time it didn’t stop on Fanshawe street for whatever reason. We had to walk the entire length of Fanshawe Street. Secondly, Queen Street. It took forever. Why is it not car free? Who the hell knows at this point? And who is going to do anything about it?

          The main problem is the sheer amount of time it takes. You run into hard practical limits. Luckily we planned to have lunch in the city, the bus was so slow we wouldn’t have made it there and back within an afternoon. Will I try that again? No.

  3. But we are well on track with the basic principles of ATAP. Decade One was ‘all the projects we are currently doing that nobody really wants’. Decade Two was ‘all the projects we hope to do but can’t afford’ and Decade Three was ‘all the projects people want but we will make bloody well sure they never get’.
    As I said ATAP is on track.

  4. Things have changed we now have working from home and the demise of foreign students and tourists. These were the things that were driving pre covid Public Transport demand. What we will have when and if we ever return to anything resembling pre covid is hard to say. My observation is the city will become a lot less focussed on its city centre. So plans will need to change with more emphasis on cross town public transport routes. For those of you who believe cycling is our saviour then they holy trinity of cycleways and shared paths and public transport will be important. And don’t let the roadies jump in first lets be ahead of the curve on this one. Focus on the new network it is probably the best thing that Auckland Transport has ever done. I can stand at the bus hub at the Mangere Town centre and catch a bus to Sylvia Park, Onehunga, Manukau , Papatoetoe ,Botany or Otahuhu. Focus should fall on the bottle necks these buses face. One of the worst examples would be the Massey Road rail overbridge. Don’t let us become generals fighting yesterdays war. The battlefield has changed.

    1. Yes, good comments, Royce. “Focus on the new network it is probably the best thing that Auckland Transport has ever done.” Agree.

    2. The Massey Road rail overbridge like many other roads gets busy after school. It needs to have a safe path built alongside as the narrow path is scary. Pedestrians are separated just half a meter from huge speeding trucks.
      It is an impediment to walking and cycling in the area
      I think that despite AT we are getting intensification with many new apartments close to stations in Auckland. With AMETI, the CRL, northern busway extension and bikeways slowly added we are making progress.
      Many now see the benefits of living close to stations.
      People living in far away places where they do the costly commute might change their thinking.

      1. I saw your recent comments on townhouses and Apartments. Things are really moving now density is increasing by the day as is traffic.
        And yes Massey road overbridge is due for a pedestrian and cycling upgrade and bus lanes. I wonder if the bridge could be widened.
        I am really hoping that with the Airport buses moving to Puhinui the promised Manukau Onehunga bus via Papatoetoe station, Buckland road and Mangere Town Centre is introduced. This will be the direct route to Onehunga for passengers coming from Manukau or on from the South on rail with a change at Papatoetoe station.
        Another improvement would be to extend the 321 Hospital bus to the Superclinic via Papatoetoe, Puhinui and Homai Stations. At the moment it terminates at Middlemore. It could be marketed as a Hospital plus Industrial service. It covers all the industrial areas which were previously served by rail at the closed stations of Wiri, Mangere, Westfield and Southdown. The route would be fed by rail and bus at Homai, Puhinui, Papatoetoe, Otahuhu, Middlemore and Penrose. Frequency should be increased at peak times.

    3. Im really sceptical about the predicted, huge, long term impacts of COVID on travel around the city. At work we are working 2 days a week from home permanently, but I know of other office based companies that would be very easy to remote work that are back in the office the day its level 2. (Some level 3). We have just expanded our offices too. These companies have had it proved to them that remote working can work, under several forced trials from the various Auckland lockdowns. And they’re not convinced. After vaccine rollout, the amount of remote working will only roll back closer to where it was pre COVID, its had its time in the limelight. And that’s only the office based jobs where its possible to remote work. There are a lot of jobs (most?) where you cant remote work at all anyway.

      Traffic was just as bad pre these series of lockdowns as it was pre COVID altogether. Ease of use and speed compared with traffic will remain to be the biggest driver of PT use. I don’t believe that has changed.

      Don’t get me wrong, obviously some PT demand will be gone permanently as a result of work from home, but it wont be that much

      1. “Public transport use in Auckland has slumped 40% due to Covid”. Yes but not only covid, the rail network has been in chaos since August 2020. When you have months of crawling, delays, cancellations, weeks of no service at all etc etc, you are going to get slump which has nothing to do with covid or working from home. It is an entirely Auckland snafu at the worst possible time. Hopeless unreliablity and ridiculous slow trips are a huge turn off factor.

        1. I don’t know if the work’s continuing through level three but they’ve started replacing the track on Pukekohe to Papakura now so I think the slowed speeds should be on its way out soon ish.

        2. Don’t underestimate how much Kiwirail’s incompetence has damaged the reputation of Auckland’s rail service.

          The rolling closures of lines and speed limits had a serious effect. We’re a one car family and my wife had to spend a whole bunch of money on ubers to get to and from work during January as the closures affected the eastern line and southern line. She’s now seriously pissed off with the service in general. Rail buses are no substitute as they take about 3x the length of time – when you have to be at work by 8am sharp and take care of daycare dropoffs etcthere’s little margin for error.

          These idiots still live in some mythical time where they think everyone is at the beach for January and February. Probably because that’s what AT/Kiwirail management are doing, lounging at their baches.

          Also masks – because they’re the only place you HAVE to wear them in Level 1, PT is tarnished as a dangerous activity. The reverse is also true as it also becomes a disincentive for those who would otherwise be more pragmatic. People know that one day they will be in a rush in the morning and forget their mask…and don’t want to be publicly shamed…so they just adopt a different routine.

  5. You mean: ‘ATAP cannot be a 2018 plan for 2031’

    It’s a 10 year plan people. Think about that; is this the world need or want in the 2030s+? ie like it is now, just a little bit tweaked?

  6. It seems politicians have got better and better at placating people demanding change with plans, promises and words, but at the same time get less and less changed.

    I’d love to see a post soon where we reflect on the huge change over the decades, its got a bit sad how little has happened lately.

    1. This is a really important thing people forget – change behind the scenes is all well and good, but we need visual change or else people will feel like the city is stagnating. At the moment we run the real risk of Auckland looking the same as it does today in ten year’s time, but just with more people and longer commutes.

      Not exactly an appealing prospect for young people facing huge house prices, lower wages and little signs of improvement.

  7. Well it is a neat table, but does anyone know if they are actually planning to do anything to achieve those numbers? Or are they just a virtue signalling exercise?

    1. It is a neat table. They are planning on turning it into a whole bunch of beautiful graphics to put in newsletters, reports, articles and their website. But no, history suggests they have no intention of actually doing anything that might achieve any of those targets.

    2. AT will do some mode shift encouragement but a lot of the measures will depend on central government initiatives like fuel efficiency standards, emissions pricing and congestion pricing.

      I’m not sure if anyone has got levers to achieve the targets on shifting road freight to rail – certainly not something AT or Auckland Council can influence though.

      1. I think Ari’s right, below, where he says, “So AT just continues along as it normally does. Building roads for cars.”

        Central government isn’t needed for AT to decide not to continue like this. There are posts on GA every week showing that AT can and should adopt different practices just to meet the directives they’ve already been shown.

        1. I think there are a range of ideas put forward on Greater Auckland – a lot of them have been taken up. But I imagine the arguments put forward here for the more radical actions haven’t been compelling so far for decision makers.

    1. The ETS needs to be part of the solution but it isn’t comprehensive enough be the only part. We’ve had the ETS for the last 12 years and you can see how little impact it’s had over that time. There are some sectors of society where pricing alone doesn’t make sense because there are so many externalities and other market distortions. Transport is one of these.

      1. I disagree. Transport is transport and climate response is climate response. The cross pollination of policy is where things go awry – you get massive reports trying to do a million things like putting percentages on how much of the bus fleet that will be electric. ETS only got its cap last year and its a tool that efficiently puts the cost of emissions on emitters. Start retiring certificates and get on with it. Why can’t we have the GPS being purely a road space management, access and safety tool (I’m quite happy with the funding and activity classes) and the ETS to deal with climate?

        1. I don’t really understand how they could be separated. What’s in the GPS determines New Zealand’s emissions to quite a large extent. I’d fully support the ETS being strengthened, but I’d also expect the market response of that to be more demand for low-carbon (cheaper) transport – cycleways, footpaths and public transport. The supply of which is determined in part by the GPS.

      1. Yep, that was a poor attempt at satire (or whatever it was). I’d sit down and chat with Oliver Hartwich though – he’s got some good ideas that don’t make it to the mainstream media

    2. Missing Link, I think the answer to your question is that markets are a long way from perfect. If you just lift the price of carbon via the ETS, it’s not like AT receive a clear market message to put money into cycleways and light rail. The people buying the petrol will grumble about the price but still not have choices.

  8. Thanks Royce. You have good knowledge of what’s going on in the area.
    Northcote has added 2 safe paths beside the bridge over the motorway and I suggest similar for the rail bridge at Massey Rd.
    When more apartments are built then we hope that a good share of the owners will use PT and that the number of cars on the road remains stable. As an area intensifies the PT services will increase. For me I catch the 32 bus to Sylvia Park which is frequent and easy.
    The Otahuhu train station with the recent opening of mothballed platform 3 is now much more user friendly and busier. AT should have used platform 3 when the station was first built.

    1. Sounds like a plan I was thinking of a tidal bus lane but probably to difficult and anyway it’s congested both ways at afternoon peak. Need more people on the bus and less cars.

  9. I was watching a “Not Just Bikes” video on Youtube the other day and the dude raised the point that suburban bike infrastructure really ought to feature more prominently in how people think about delivering bike lanes and so forth. After all, these are the roads that in many cases need (a) traffic calming and (b) are already extraordinarily spacious to start with, so you should theoretically be able to come in and get bike lanes done relatively cheaply.

    p.s. I think this is the video in question:

    Obviously you’d prioritise the routes to make getting to train stations, schools and shops first but I don’t see any real reason why these roads shouldn’t have bike infrastructure. Here’s an example of a road just the other side of the cemetery and central park from Papakura Train Station:,174.9425992,3a,39.7y,67.38h,82.68t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s86ZtMGpID7z-nh8fTAEi5g!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    As you can see, it’s very wide (if you turn the image around you’ll see there’s even a speed bump) and all the properties have these massive grass verges. I mean, in principle, you could even lay down another path next to the current one and designate the current one a bike lane with a coat of paint. Then we move on to the nearby crossing:,174.943231,3a,75y,29.91h,62.83t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s4xmgkr81FWkO0Blp19hL1w!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

    which can be converted to something more suitable for bikes as well. And you can see there’s plenty of space alongside the cemetery to continue the bike lanes (without narrowing or even working on the Great South Road… so why would there by protests by car users?). But here’s the great bit:,174.9442256,3a,90y,72.16h,57.6t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sOx_k9thgnXuHvbkp_Z_Kzg!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

    i.e. a lot of that width is continued along Chapel St which will eventually put you into Railway St West, which is still where the train station is located. And there’s also the option of putting the route along this recently built footpath through Central Park:,174.9461126,3a,16.1y,191.02h,85.42t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s3ClxumGQ0jSRCVbOntXuHg!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

    which would mean the cycle route would actually be more direct than the driving route.

    And, I mean, sure, no-one really cycles in the suburban environment apart from dedicated cyclists so who knows how it’d stack up in a business case report but:

    * if you build it, they will come (and how do you quantify the number of people who aren’t cycling but who would cycle given a different built environment)
    * this stuff probably wouldn’t cost much since it looks mostly just like a case of widening existing footpaths and/or putting in a little kerb
    * and you should be able to reap economies of scale because most suburban roads are excessively wide… which would also give contractors certainty of continuing work and allow them to build experience (that would hopefully make doing the harder jobs of where we currently build bike lanes cheaper)

    Oh and because you should be able to get these done quickly, they’d allow for photo opps and so on to keep active modes in the public eye.

  10. Auckland Council doesn’t really care (about cycling or climate change or whatever), the politicians just want to look like they do. So they yell a lot and get photos, but then actually just talk and do nothing. So AT just continues along as it normally does. Building roads for cars.

  11. Terrible failure all this really. Can’t use COVID-19 for an excuse but should of been a reason to make active modes even better for example. Agree huge motorway / expressway etc projects sucking out the vast sum of funds.

  12. It’s a spectacular tragedy across New Zealand, the precise opposite of where we needed to be in our Government’s 2021 climate mitigation programme:

    – Let’s Get Wellington Moving is a colossal failure and the Minister now knows it
    – Christchurch public transport has to celebrate a century-old tram circuit, and bus PT is otherwise stuck in circuitous business planning cycles
    – Tauranga’s transport planning is simply out of control resulting in intestinal road networks and not a bus lane to be seen anywhere, and of course there is no political leadership even possible
    – Auckland is no closer to light rail than four years ago, the cycleway across the Harbour Bridge is cryogenically frozen while they angle for a full bridge replacement in another decade, and until WK stabilise their budgets the only new PT will be AMETI and CRL in this decade.

    In centra,l regional and local politics, we are in chaos.

    At the executive level we are in financial calamity.

    At the operational levels we are barely holding systems together, propped up by massive Covid19 operator subsidies

    We are nowhere where we should be across New Zealand let alone Auckland and there’s not much hope either.

    Even the Government’s water system reforms are faster than this.

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