A few months ago, Auckland Light Rail (ALR) consulted on how the project might pass through Onehunga  and Mangere Town Centre – the former included an absurd proposal to use the Avondale Southdown heavy rail corridor. They released the results of the consultation back in June and they’ve now released their recommended options.


The consultation suggested combining light rail and heavy rail in a single, four-track corridor, either elevated alongside SH20 or in a trench along the old Avondale-Southdown corridor designation. While the designation exists, I’ve long been sceptical of any plans to actually build a rail line here as the area is vastly different to what it was when the designation was created and it as local residents will loudly oppose it due to the noise and vibration of suddenly having freight trains for neighbours – not to mention it would require a four-track trench about 3km long with at least 14 road crossings over it.

The Avondale-Southdown Corridor (blue) and the existing Onehunga line (yellow)

ALR previously released some of the results of their consultation with most supporting the option that went along SH20.

They’ve now confirmed this is their preferred route and that they won’t share a corridor with heavy rail.

The people of this community were very clear about their preference for the light rail route to run alongside the motorway, to reduce the impact on residential areas.

A shared light rail and heavy rail route is no longer being considered between Onehunga and Southdown, on the KiwiRail corridor set aside for rail in the area. Heavy rail will also not be progressed as part of this project. KiwiRail is considering heavy rail separately.

However, there is one aspect that is different. In the consultation they suggested light rail would get from SH20 to the existing Onehunga train station by using either Neilson St or Princes St. The image above shows light rail travelling right between the two and based on some of the comments in the image above, likely taking out a bunch of commercial buildings with an elevated structure.

Mangere Town Centre

At Mangere, ALR discussed either keeping light rail beside SH20 or having it closer to the town centre.

The feedback was overwhelmingly in support of the Town Centre option.

“There is a strong desire – almost 80 percent – for light rail to connect into the Māngere town centre.  The motorway route option was the least preferred and is seen as too difficult for people to access.”

However, ALR have gone with the motorway option, quoting that it will deliver “a more reliable service and faster travel times” as well as having less disruption for the town centre and less impact on local parks. This appears also in part to be about pushing the project to a more metro design as they also talk about ensuring it is separated from local streets. In many ways this puts the design on this section largely back to what it was in 2016.

They also talk about how in response to this they’ll improve Bader Dr for accessing the station and the town centre.

A station for the whole community

We heard from the community that a station in Māngere needs to be welcoming, safe and provide an accessible entry point to Māngere and great connections between the station and town centre.

  • We can improve the bridge over the motorway so new homes along Bader Drive will have great access to the town centre and the rest of the city via light rail.
  • Working with council, we will connect local paths and bus services to make it easy to get to the new station.
  • The surrounding infrastructure will be built to be more resilient to flooding and climate change.

Up to four light rail stations are proposed for the wider Māngere area – two between Onehunga and Māngere Town Centre, and one near the airport. This will give more locals easy access to light rail and a connection to the major employment centre by the airport.

While we did support the motorway alignment, I do feel for the community here, especially given the level of support they have given this project. It will probably feel a lot like a bait and switch situation as the community have been presented with multiple images of light rail being right in the town centre from the start of this latest process. Also rubbing a bit of salt into the wound will be that just up the road in Onehunga, light rail does divert away from the motorway to better serve the town centre.

Finally, a few things noticeable from the map above is that it appears light rail will sit on the eastern side of SH20 through Mangere. My understanding this is in part about avoiding the need to build a bridge over the Mangere Inlet that weaves through the existing motorway bridges. However, I recall that when the bridge was duplicated just over a decade ago, SH20 was shifted to the eastern edge of the designation specifically so that a future rail line could potentially go down the western side. Auckland also had to pay around $20 million to further widen the motorway trench under Kirkbride Rd to future proof for a future rail line yet it appears this is also not be being used.

Of course, a lot of this appears increasingly moot with a good chance the project will be stopped or drastically changed after the election.

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  1. Wow, this is most winding railway line I have seen.

    I am not an expert but I think the more winding the track will mean more wear for the train wheels and the steel rail? Correct me if I am wrong.

    1. You talking about the old heavy rail designation in Onehunga? While indeed curvy, I don’t think it’s nearly as tight as, say, the turn into Britomart from Newmarket. And it was probably originally designated that was as a combination of least gradient and maybe avoiding a few plots of land in Onehunga that had already notable buildings or property interests on it…

  2. I have long suggested that future redevelopment of the Mangere town centre could be on the western side so the separation of the station from the town centre could be reduced. This would clobber a local park but free up space for a replacement park east of the existing centre. The new centre adjacent to the station should be focussed on being a genuine community hub rather than just another suburban shopping mall.

    1. You mean like the City Rail Link? Well, it took them about a hundred years since it was mooted, but good (and necessary) things for Auckland don’t simply disappear because their implementation is bungled, so I suspect you will hear about it again in 10-20 years if it gets cancelled now.

      I do feel for Dom Road in particular though. So much jerking around over the last decades. Not the focus of this consultation, but maaan….

      1. I do think you have hit the nail on the head, it is needed, the issue delivery is absolutely dismal regardless of what political party is in government.

  3. I honestly have enough of LR. They’ve presented very good options when Labour was campaigning 6 years ago and since then they just try to do everything to annoy people with it. And choosing all the weird options along the way like tunnelled super expensive version or motorway route instead of going to where people live. What’s the point anymore. I feel like now it’s just super overpriced thing that will not deliver much. I’m very disappointed. And why they spent money on consultation? 80% was in favor of good option and they still didn’t care. Why spend money on consultation? It’s just dumb. Do they do it on purpose or are they just that dumb? I think it’s a very valid question now. LR seems like huge time wasting project that will be cancelled anyway.

    1. Light rail, prioritised bus networks, attractive environments for walking and biking without constant delay and danger from vehicles, quiet low traffic neighbourhoods, streets as social spaces, pedestrianised retail areas…

      We’re not getting any of these things. And yet we’re spending inordinate amounts of money on transport. It all comes down to the same reasons: “predict and provide” planning, power of the corporates that make money from the status quo, seemingly deliberate misunderstandings on the part of leadership in the sector, and unprofessional officials that don’t tackle the misunderstandings. The longer it takes for sector leadership to understand the shift required, the bigger the shift will have to be.

      So, giving up on light rail is one (very understandable) reaction. Giving up on the fantastic city we’re missing out on for the very same reasons they can’t deliver light rail, though… that’s quite different. And although it’s a fully understandable reaction too, we need to find the energy for our kids’ sake, and not be defeatist, but to keep fighting until we win this war about planning approach.

      Within a Vision-led planning approach, each project in turn will help build a better city, and each decision in turn will make everything easier as we go.

      1. We don’t even have ‘predict and provide’ anymore. We have ‘provide and predict’ for roads and ‘dream and bullshit’ for PT.

    2. I agree this whole tram thing has become a sick joke ,how many more plans and consultations reports studies ,it’s a farce it’s just about planners consultants etc.. lining their pockets via the taxpayer. they could already have a route up and running and be nearly finished on a north west line by now. It’s not happening give up on it and put it out of it’s misery, maybe Christchurch will get LR after all they have a reasonable tram route already, the closest Auckland will get to a tram/light rail are bi articulated battery buses, though trolley bus versions would be way better in every way

      1. “it’s a farce it’s just about planners consultants etc.. lining their pockets via the taxpayer”

        As a consultant myself, I’ll tell you that I very rarely (ever?) have heard someone in the industry pushing for work just for work’s sake. We all would like to actually work on projects that get built. In most case, it’s the decisionmakers / politicians who overburden / slow down / extend the project. Sure, sometimes engineers and planners make decisions that are not ideal, but as I said, I’ve never on the inside seen (or suspected) a decision being made “because it gives us more fees”. Maybe among other consultants but not those I have worked for / with. Sure, we all like the plum jobs with big budgets, but as said above – we want sh*t built too.

        If it helps any (it doesn’t), the private sector is often surprisingly similar. I have a list of consents and designs longer than my arm stacked up that either never got built, or only got built after 5 redesigns and re-consenting processes because the client changed their mind.

        1. I often get the feeling it is that those inside the authorities are just unable/unwilling/unsure about making a straight call to go ahead with something. So after asking consultants for a report they ask for another one and all the time justifying they are doing something saying we are awaiting latest report.

  4. It is phenomenal for how long there has been consultation on this project; then the project ignores the consultation?

    How does this instill any confidence in a city that desperately needs public transport infrastructure investment, stuck forever aligning to motorway routes?

    We had trams up until the 1950s and 1960s that did not run on motorways, did not need tunnels, did not need to go around in funny circles; but cars stole all of those routes in the automobile revolution.

    It is time to take our city back, for the people that live here. And particularly the people of Māngere.

    The Māngere Town Centre Bus Station is more confusing than any bus station I have ever seen (I have travelled by bus through Central America so have justification for a comparison); and it is no wonder that where there are no trains, people have little motivation to use public transport.

    It would be so simple to just plan all the old tram lines, and then start connecting them to obvious train stations.

    We are a city of many maunga, but cars seem to have a mostly flat surface to move upon; can the majority of this city (the pedestrians) not have such a service (via BACK ON TRACK Wynyard Quarter / MOTAT style)???

    1. The Onehunga route along the motorway won’t make a difference regarding stations as none is planned at that section anyway, but re Mangere yes.

    2. Yes the Mangere Town centre bus stop is a bit of a dogs breakfast with all buses in either direction using the same stop in some kind of rolling mall and many trips around the loop. I would suggest the engineers go and have a look at what has being done at Otara in a similar setup of wanting all buses to berth on one side of the road but they have provided a centre platform with buses in one direction on one side and vice versa. A tram stop up by the motorway presumably at the motorway level could be served by feeder buses but I would walk although many local residents can barely make it out of the mall so 450 metres would be a stretch but maybe the exercise would do them good.

    1. They probably could, but it’s probably not ideal and WK probably want it now to keep for an extra motorway lane/T3 in future should it be needed.

  5. Option 1: Provide Mangere with a new, high-capacity light rail station to serve the many already-existing destinations in the town centre, capitalising on local support and enabling new development.

    Option 2: Put the station right next to the motorway, behind Pak’NSave.

    Guess which one ALR chose 🙁

    1. They chose the sensible one that will allow light rail to be fully automated for higher capacity in the future. Spending huge amounts of money on tunnels to then run on-street for a short section through Mangere never made sense.

      1. The section through Mangere could be tunnelled, with an underground station. It doesn’t have to be a surface line.

        The point is that the line should, in all scenarios, have a station in Mangere town centre. That it doesn’t is inexplicable.

        1. What makes Mangere town centre so special? By using Sandringham Road they are missing Mt Roskill Shops, no big deal…

        2. The preference would have been through the Town Center at surface, but we shouldn’t let best be the enemy of better (it’s the story of this whole line…). Positives:

          – its within the gold standard (500m) of walking distance for RTN stations
          – its probably not much further than the shortfall at Manukau, which is easily manageable for most. Maybe we run electric golf carts to cater for the less abled?
          – some effort could be put in the re-orientating the Centre to grow between the current site and the future stations, as per Graeme’s comment above
          – it might be further from the Town Center, but its now presumably closer to more residences (walk-up) too. Just needs good access from either side of SH20.

  6. If this is what we’re going to get, like we’re just going to end up with tunneled metro everywhere, can we commit to it now and stop this farce of consultation and start tunneling all over the Auckland region and build a network?

    Rather than going through this dog and pony show of gaslighting Aucklanders and pretending the policy people actually voted for in 2017 is still even remotely on the table, I feel like at this point ALR is somewhat taking the Michael with the name ‘Auckland Light Rail’. This is neither what Auckland needs, nor is it light and given the likelihood of the Harbour plans becoming road tunnels only, I suspect it we will end up with nothing rail-based either.

  7. How did they build a massive motorway all the way from Onehunga to Waterview despite the “loud nimbys” but a railway line planned and designated for 80 years is impossible? It’s the same defeatist attitude that has led to this crazy all tunnelled plan instead of using surface and elevated paths.

    1. What defeatist attitude? They’re ignoring overwhelming submissions. Short of a bloodless coup, that’s about all the engagement that the process allows for, and given the absolute mess this project is becoming, it looks like it counts for very little.

    2. Yeah… Thousands get to live next to a loud, stinky six-lane motorway (SH20); but the sunny uplands of Onehunga can’t deal with a few trains with stations for them to use as well?

  8. Seems to have turned from light rail into virtual heavy rail by default, following the motorways and keeping away from town centres. Very far cry from the light, small and regular modern carriages to hop on and hop off in front of shops and houses.

    I am also concerned that the Kiwirail planned heavy freight line is still on the cards, feedback during the consultation seemed to indicate that this would be the case. Someone showed me the update yesterday with a “yay no rail line through the houses” but I had to point out that “Kiwirail is considering heavy rail separately” doesn’t mean the same thing, only means they aren’t trying to lump it into one project. Onehunga may have just created a worst of both worlds scenario – passenger rail that mostly avoids where they live and follows the motorway, and heavy freight through their back yards to make the port moving north of Auckland function.

    1. Yes for light rail to work you need easy access and stops where you need to go. Great examples overseas we should follow , the time taken to get to and down to the odd underground stop will ensure many choose the “convenience” of the car.

  9. “Onehunga may have just created a worst of both worlds scenario – passenger rail that mostly avoids where they live and follows the motorway, and heavy freight through their back yards …”
    Yes lol could be.
    Bring back the surface light rail plan!

  10. Start an infrastructure project under Labour? You’re dreaming mate.
    Labour can talk a good project, Light Rail, Bike Bridge over Harbour, but talking’s about all that they ever do. Although to be fair, they have managed to put a pedestrian crossing in in Wellington.

  11. Starting the LRT network between Manukau-Airport-Mangere-Onehunga is still the best option. We should just get on with it. This section of the route doesn’t depend on the isthmus at all. It connects to the wider existing and planned RTN in several spots. Even the route from Onehunga to Roskill is fixed. Building that ASAP only has benefits.

    1. If LRT gets the go-ahead, yes. But a NACT govt will kill this the day after they get elected.

      Instead, we could just run a 24/7 busway linking Onehunga and Manukau (so extending the Puhinui airport link). And Phase 2 could be up East Auckland to Botany (where National aims to fast-track completion of the Eastern Busway)

      1. Phase 3 could be Onehunga to Avondale (and on to NW Busway) on SH20, the route Mayor Brown wants HR on.

        That gives you really good cross-Isthmus coverage, many links to the airport with a single transfer, and RTN through East Auckland linking the airport with the city, and via light industrial areas, some of which are the busiest employment hubs in the region.

        All for a fraction of the costs and in a fraction of the time.

      2. A2B is a BRT at the moment. So yes, it could easily be extended. It’s definitely a good option if LRT is not going to be built anywhere in Auckland in the next 20 years.

        But if LRT is going to be built, and it should, then I think Mangere is the best place to start. The only reason I’ve heard that it’s not is patronage levels vs patronage levels with an isthmus based service.

        However, patronage for a network that isn’t built is zero. Mangere could and can be built now. And much faster. By the time a network is built in the isthmus, a network in Mangere centered on Manukau and with the NPSUD will drive lots of intensification and development.

  12. I said from day one that Labour need to get tracks on the ground ASAP in case they lose the next election. Instead they pissed around in their first term (blaming NZF), then pissed around in their second term, and unless they pull a rabbit out of the hat at the next election, LR is now completely dead. Probably more dead than before they were elected due to the massive cost increases they have added.
    I bet the ALR team are looking into alternative employment…

    1. As dreams are free, I am hoping a new NACT government laments that it can’t cancel the project because of the sunk costs already. They ask the project team to come back with a much cheaper option, and that’s the original surface proposal. Its then a raging success and the good people of Luxon’s electorate demand one of their own, not the “loser cruiser” bus option.

      1. The sunk costs have all been in designing a tunnel option (and costing a gold plated on street option). It is basically all wasted unless the tunnels are built.
        Also NACT will never build LR even in your wildest dreams…

        1. I don’t think there are any “real” sunk costs at the moment. All the work done would need to be done anyway. Any geotech is still useful for increasing knowledge about the city.

          Surface LRT is still possible. Dominion Road BRT won’t work without the same concessions that surface LRT needs. Plus there is little room in the city for buses. And it amplifies labour issues with bus drivers.

    2. To be fair. Rail projects are urban development projects. Road project are urban destruction projects. The former is much harder and takes skills that we lack in NZ. So all the challenges and slowness are not unreasonable.

      Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still lament and hassle the planners.

      1. AT had designed the whole thing for them. All they had to do was fund AT and it would have started by now. And it would be much harder for NACT to cancel an AT project that had government funding.

        1. They probably would only fund 50% if it was via AT. So the city would need to fund 50%. Large parts of the transport CAPEX budget are locked into CRL and Eastern busway. So not sure it could be that simple.

          Surface LRT with the Jacobs 2016 business case should definitely have been funded with NZU instead of O2L and Penlink.

  13. My main comment about the Mangere town location is that in large part is because we are viewing CC2M has one route vs a connection of different parts of a network. A properly RTN/LRT network in Mangere would have a second direct connection between Mangere Town and Manukau along Bader/Bucklands. This also connects to the Middlemore and Papatoetoe. Similarly in Onehunga with a cross town to Panmure and Mt Albert/Avondale.

    In that context, the station position is important, but not a show stopper.

    1. Interesting comment about a Bader drive Buckland Road route . Passenger numbers on 31 and 36 and 38 are building nicely and with the Onehunga branch frequency being 30 mins and long waits at Penrose or Ellerslie to transfer if heading south the 36 bus is probably the best option with a transfer at Papatoetoe or stay on board to get to Manukau. I would make 36 a direct route from Onehunga to Manukau via Mangere Town and Papatoetoe Station if light rail ever got built at the moment it makes a few deviations to service some areas. Whether it could or should be turned into a tram route is another thing. The other bus option would be a motorway route picking up Mangere Bridge and Mangere Town centre then onto Puhinui and Manukau. This could be extended through Waterview to the west to give a long distance cross town route.

  14. Goodness, there’s still someone out there who thinks Light Rail is a happening thing? The project has been dead in the water for years. Labour just can’t bring themselves to admit it, on top of their long list of delivery failures.

    Can we stop flogging the dead horse please? In 50 days the government changes and the light rail plans finally get binned.

    Now is the time to start talking about airport rail. Instead of eight trains per hour terminating at Otahuhu, run them down the third main then turn right to the airport.

  15. It’s a shame that we will only get pretty pictures to look at. On the bright side It’s only a three hour plane trip to see a running system.

    1. Pick your destination. We are about the only place in the developed (and in many cases, developing) world who hasn’t moved on to LRT. But Simeon Brown knows best, I guess.

      In fairness, we haven’t even really done HR properly yet…

  16. It is great that there is a good chance that Auckland rail network will be extended, as long planned, with twin tracks from Avondale, to Onehunga and then Southdown, for freight and passenger services, by 2030.

    A covered trench is a likely contender for constructing through Onehunga so the line can be below the numerous road crossings, little to no adverse effects on residents, and a linear park created along the route.

    It also allows for passenger rail to be extended from Onehunga to Airport to Wiri, also as long planned, making all of Auckland Light Rail’s plans redundant.

    1. I can’t see how the Avondale Southdown line it could possibly help the case for rail from Onehunga to the Airport as it specifically cuts off Onehunga.

      1. I think he means you could trench / tunnel it so that the Onehunga end is different to the original ASL route. Create a newly shifted to the right Onehunga station as it wont’ handle the 9 car length trains anyway, actually not even 6.

    2. There are other problems with heavy rail. Doesn’t service Roskill.
      Doesn’t work well in Mangere
      The heavy rail network is at capacity with CRL.
      There are othe reasons.

      1. A2S HR has some merit, but not south of Onehunga for the reasons you mention, and others. However I still prefer the idea of LRT on Avondale to Onehunga and then replacing the Onehunga Line going north, terminating at Newmarket, for a number of transfers (Western, Southern, Eastern and Eastern Busway).

        However I think LRT is just poison now, whatever its merits, and particularly to a NACT government that is likely in power for at least 2 terms. I think Onehunga to the Airport should be a gold plated busway connecting up to Airport to Botany. Perhaps even from Avondale if the freight line doesn’t get the go-ahead.

        We can come back to LRT when a decision is made about the Isthmus and A2S. But that busway would have decade of capacity in it and we might instead focus on the NW or crossing the harbour first.

    3. “….making all of Auckland Light Rail’s plans redundant”.

      Its the HR plans that will be redundant, if not already. There is very few discussions on HR for the Auckland region and there is a reason for that. Two expensive (ignoring the ridiculous LRT plan of ALR), too inflexible (less stations, less catchment, so poorer BCR) capacity issues even after CRL. Its flogging a dead-ish horse.

      Auckland’s future is 24/7 buslanes, busways and LRT/LM, in that order.

      1. “Too expensive (ignoring the ridiculous LRT plan of ALR), capacity issues even after CRL”

        It wouldn’t be too expensive imo. Kiwirail already owns the land on the a-s. We already have the trains and drivers and associated equip to run on the line. We already have people trained on electrification for HR. The motorway spans on the Mt roskill motorway have already been built wide enough for tracks. We just need ballast, sleepers and some rail to start.

        Capacity issues depend on running patterns. Manukau to airport to onehunga to grafton to final at maungawhau is best. Eventually this line is the one to cross the Harbour.
        Then eastern line goes into a-s line which goes into inner west and crl and eastern line again as an isthmus circle line. The western line goes crl then south.
        3 simple lines. 2 from east into crl and 2 from west into crl with one servicing grafton and finaling at mangawhau

        1. The expensive comment was in relation to that part of the line (onehunga to airport) costing more than the LR equivalent, for only about half the stations. More money for less accessibility.

        2. For HR to the shore I guess it depends, if they are going to build a tunnel then there is.
          A tunnel is expensive and you might as well put the larger capacity vehicle in the expensive tunnel which is HR, rather than the smaller light rail vehicle. A tunnel is a tunnel. If you are going to build a bridge then that’s different.

          As for the expensive part being between onehunga and mangere it seems quite similar now as the light rail will be going along the motorway as the heavy rail would have.

          Heavy rail from onehunga to the airport to then cross the southern with a transfer station and then join the manukau branch makes sense in that it reduces branch lines and simplifies the running pattern. The manukau branch no longer joins the southern line. To change the frequencies either side.

        3. If we ran HR over the harbour, would it take freight also?

          One big advantage of HR is its ability to link up with the North Auckland line and go all the way through to Whangarei. I just wonder whether freight would help with the business case, or whether that would continue to go via the west.

          I guess Light Metro could get you to Wellsford for passengers to transfer…

        4. I doubt you would want heavy rail anywhere near the centre of auckland before going over/under the harbour. Maybe the tunnel would be OK but you wouldn’t want freight trains to be going through Newmarket all the time to get to the tunnel

  17. Could be good plan to follow except:
    “.. and then replacing the Onehunga Line going north, terminating at Newmarket, ”
    Parallel LRT with southern HR line? Seems a waste. If replacing Onehunga branch line perhaps just upgrade Penrose to a decent walk across the platform transfer.

    1. Yeah, probably better.

      I think Mt Smart is going to get a reprieve with the new Auckland A league franchise being based there, which means another 13 events a year in addition to the Warriors (and others). It needs some love….

    1. Pity for 6 years they did not influence Labour to do anything about Light Rail. Hard to believe they can do anything even if they end up in government. On paper they can build rail all over the country.

      1. Remember that they weren’t in government, first term it was labour and NZ first coalition, second Labour alone.
        NZ first frustrated anything the greens tried to do in the first term under confidence and supply, and labour went double wa wa on transport in the second.

        This time around if Labour has any chance to get back in it will undoubtedly only be with greens in coalition, so might be their first real chance to hold the portfolio and make some coalition demands.

        1. She was an Associate Transport Minister. How much more ‘in government’ do you want to get? And the Light Rail process was broken long before it got anywhere near NZ First for a cabinet vote, so that doesn’t wash either.

          Unfortunately it didn’t matter anywhere near as much as a second tunnel in Wellington.

        2. they weren’t in givernment? are you in alternative universe? If a party has ministers they are in government, whatever beaurocratic term you use, they were ruling country jointly with Labour. Otherwise I don’t know what magical spell they’ve used to have majority in first term and what mythical country is James Shaw representing on all those climate coffee and cookie meetups.

        3. Which is why NZ needs a Teal party….TOP?

          Labour can shaft the Greens because they have only tied themselves to one pony, forever ruling out National. The Greens have little power, really. They can promise stuff all they like when in government with Labour, but the latter holds the purse strings and the PM can veto anything at the drop of a hat.

          A party with a better balance of economic, social and environmental issues might play Labour off against National. Like NZ first did and left the Greens as frustrated onlookers.

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