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NOVEMBER 2004 NEWS
29 November 2004
London Shops hit by Toll Tax
The Edinburgh Evening News reports "The Federation of Small Businesses says 80 per cent of small firms have lost takings since congestion charging was introduced in London and 25 per cent have had to make staff redundant." London trade 'has been hurt by charging'
Americans Volunteer to Pay Tolls
We kid you not. Well only, a bit.
In Seattle 500 drivers are going to have money deposited in a special account. The account will be debited as they use the roads. If there is any money left they get to keep up to $150. Well I guess it beats watching mice trying to get through a maze. They say that in 10 to 15 years "everybody's going to be doing this." We hope not:- Testing the pay-by-the-mile plan: Commuters volunteer to try tolls
Americans Scrap tolls
Whig.com in Missouri reports the closure of the toll bridge at St Francisville which carried about 500,000 vehicles a year. It has been replaced by the "Avenue of the Saints". Missouri appears to finance its roads through a combination of fuel tax, Federal grants and borrowing through bonds. Well now ain't that a good idea.
Pennsylvania Toll Strike
Reports say that though tolls (collected by temporary workers) are now back on the Turnpike, there was not the usual "horrendous" disruption yesterday at the end of the Thanksgiving holiday. This appears to be due to a combination of flat rate tolls ($2) and waiving tolls at some locations including the "spurs".
28 November 2004
Tolls Rip Off
In Canada, Chris Daponte of the Brampton Guardian reports on the woes of those who use Highway 407 which was privatised in 1999. Complaints include:-
27 November 2004
Alistair muses on Tolls
The Transport Secretary yesterday told the London Evening Standard that he is chewing over the idea of tolls on all roads in London and South East. Does that mean the rest of Britain can breath a sigh of relief?
Alistair's shadow, Tim Yeo, attacked the Transport Secretary. But in our view he did not go far enough, as he says he thinks that tolls like the M6 are a good idea. (The best taxes are always the ones that the other feller / gal pays):- Politics.co - "Darling chews over pay-as-you-drive charges in London"
Trucks go free
A report in the Courier-Mail says that trucks will be toll free if they travel along the Brisbane toll road at night (10pm to 5am). This is as a result of demands from local residents who want the trucks not to use other roads. The residents don't want the trucks at all, the night time concession is a compromise.
Easy Way to "pay" Tolls
CapitalNews9 of Albany, New York reports that only one in four of delinquent tolls and fines on the Thruway (which uses electronic tolling) are collected. Is this the way to go?
26 November 2004
Creative ways to beat Congestion
The National Audit Office have come up with some ideas of how to reduce congestion on British roads. And according to the BBC report, it doesn't include tolls:- Creative ways to beat congestion
Ohio may join Massachusetts
wcpo.com says that there may be a strike on the Ohio Turnpike later this year.
Bush puts Tolls on all roads
This is from Hunt Peck at thespoof.com so we can't guarantee it 100%:-.
"To preserve our transportation facilities, the President declared all highways, city streets and alleys to be toll roads. Volunteers would be posted at appropriate intervals along these lanes of travel to collect the tolls."
"Without taxes to pay their salaries, it became necessary for all police personnel, FBI agents, and members of our armed forces to serve on a voluntary basis, providing their own uniforms, food, lodging, and means of transportation. To ease the burden on this group of people, they initially were not required to pay toll on the lanes of travel. However, he soon realized that this would be leading us right back toward the "big government" that he was determined to eliminate, and was forced to reverse this decision."
Ontario Truckers call for Toll Charter
Truckers have called for a new law to protect road users from the worst excesses of toll roads:- Today's Trucking - "OTA renews calls for Toll-Road Protection Act at 407 hearings"
Connecticut watch out!
The Stamford Advocate reports that the "Coastal Corridor Transportation Investment Area" is thinking of bringing in tolls. Stop them before it is too late!
25 November 2004
CNN say: "The Associated Press reported traffic backed up 50 miles on the Massachusetts Turnpike, but the Pennsylvania Turnpike was smoother, with tolls suspended due to a collectors' strike."
Chris Grella, a computer consultant, said in an e-mail to the Post-Gazette:- "Blowing through the toll booths is so sweet. I could get totally used to this."
Jeffrey Barnes, a Chadderton operations manager, whose trucks travel mostly in Pennsylvania and Ohio, said:-"We don't use the turnpike because of the cost, but I am using it with several trucks today." He estimated that using the turnpike will save his drivers about an hour and a half.
"If it was like this every day, I'd use it every day," he said.
But tolls were reimposed today, Thanksgiving Day!
Tolls are being collected by managers and by temporary workers. To simplify it the tolls are now at a flat rate, irrespective of distance. And in some cases they have been waived, because the queues are back.
Another hike in Severn tolls
Severn tolls for cars go up by 20 pence to £4.80 in January , as reported by BBC.
"Against Road Tolls" plates going cheap
The Australian papers have reported that thousands have bought road plates from "UPMART" - or "United People Against Road Tolls". The plates were sold for $500, and it was claimed that they were a legal exemption to road legislation under common law.
We knew that having to pay all those road tolls would get to them one day!
Britain urges Tolls on to Kiwis
Tolls advocate, David Beggs has been down in New Zealand, telling them about tolls. According to the NZ web site Stuff, he said "It had been estimated that an extra lane added to the M25 motorway that orbited London would be filled to capacity within a year unless road tolls were introduced at the same time.".
Just as well that the Government has virtually stopped road building then. Those d**n cars sping up overnight like mushrooms.
But it seems that not all of the people in the Department for Transport agree with the head of the Government's Commission for Integrated Transport, here is a BBC report from 11th of November:- Traffic levels on road increasing - The Department of Transport has dismissed suggestions that more traffic means roads are more congested
This article by Larry Sandler in Journal Sentinel discusses privatisation of roads- Private toll roads - a path for debate
24 November 2004
Fines are big part of London Toll Tax
BBC report that in year to October, the London Road tolls earned £64 million, with another £38 million from fines:- BBC - Fines make up 37% of toll revenue
Pennsylvania Turnpike workers go on strike on the eve of Thanksgiving Day (25th)
It was reported all over the USA that the long expected indefinite strike of 2,000 workers began in the early hours this morning. Tolls have been waived till midnight, but it is then expected that tolls will be temporarily collected at a flat rate irrespective of where you join or leave.
It would be a real Thanksgiving if the Tolls were just scrapped.
Later reports in the day, from the Turnpike authortities, said that traffic was moving more quickly and there were no delays because there were no tolls, though they apologised for the "inconvenience".
Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell said "I commend the Turnpike Commission for instituting free tolls today to help relieve congestion, especially on this, the busiest travel day of the year. If the strike continues throughout the holiday season, and backups exist I will work with the Commission to again open tolls with no charge. We won't allow for congestion on the busiest travel weekend of the year."
Thames "Gateway" Bridge
It is reported that Greenwich is expected to give its planning approval to the new bridge. The bridge will be tolled (£1 for "locals" and £2 for others):- Bridge set to get the green light
Liverpool Tunnel Tolls
A committee of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce today met to consider proposals (see 20th October) to limit tolls:- Pressure grows for lower tunnel tolls
Did Tolls lose Oz for Labour?
Australian Opposition Leader blames broken promise on Tolls for General Election defeat:- Latham blames Bracks for loss
"Question Mark Over Tax Legality"
The Times of India today reported on a dispute over legality of "backbreaking" tolls in the Punjab. The Finance department says that any tolls should be based on the ability to pay.
Better still is no tolls at all.
One bit down, a lot to go
In Illinois, the Rockford Register Star reports the demolition of toll booths and removal of a toll plaza at Cherry Valley on the Interstate 90. The plaza "has been the site of traffic jams and accidents for years".
Gov. Rod Blagojevich said "Last year, we were able to give people a chance to get into the city of Rockford free of charge, and now we're giving people a chance to get out of the city of Rockford free of charge! After all, this is a free country and what we're doing today is consistent with that."
State Sen. Brad Burzynski, R-Sycamore said "It's been a safety hazard here, and speeding the movement of cars and trucks will open up business development opportunities."
Unfortunately they are not removing tolls from the rest of the road:- Cherry Valley toll eliminated - Officials say the move will ease traffic jams
23 November 2004
Edinburgh University backs Tolls
Further to the story on 17th November that Edinburgh students want tolls, the Scotsman today reported that the head of the University also wants them, as they will pay for the trams. Oddly another University officer apparently told the Tolls Inquiry that delivery cars and vans serving the University should be exempt from the tolls.
That's the ideal tax then. You know, the one that the other guy pays, but you get the benefits.
PS This appeared in the Scotsman on the 25th from Jenny Hjul:- Hands up all the students who will do as their principal says
22 November 2004
Caveat Emptor with Electronic Tolls
An investigation by a Florida TV station has revealed that motorists are being overcharged when passing through an electronic toll system. An official of the Toll authority says that they knew of the problem:- Toll System May Be Overhauled After 'Overcharging' Report
The item gives advice on how you can check if you are being overcharged, but it is probably of little use in Britain, as not all toll operators here give you a breakdown of the charge.
"Drivers complain less on Highway 6"
Harretz.com today reports a 70% reduction in complaints following a 50% reduction in fines for late payment of tolls on the Trans-Israel Highway. The road runs from Gadera to Hadera, with the 1st stage opened in August 2002.
Australian "Toll Mine" shares
Bloomberg.com today reported on a fourth toll road operator listing on the Sydney Exchange. (The shares were heavily over subscribed.) The new operator will run the controversial Mitcham to Frankston toll road. According to Bloomberg, Australian based Macquarie Bank started infrastructure funds in 1996 to increase revenue. Its first, Macquarie Infrastructure (MIG), is now the world's biggest toll-road developer, with stakes in 13 highways in six countries. (MIG is the main shareholder in the M6 Toll road.)
"Lib Dems to mount anti-tolls campaign"
The Scotsman today reported that the Lib Dems are planning a campaign aginst the proposed Edinburgh tolls, which they say is "the wrong scheme at the wrong time". One Labour councillor said ""I'm still waiting for a good explanation as to why the Liberal Democrats nationally support congestion charging but Liberal Democrats in Edinburgh don't."
Perhaps the answer to the question is that politicians support the hated tolls when they are in power and get the proceeds or if they affect someone else.
The Scotsman also reported that the soldier who fires the one o'clock gun from Edinburgh Castle may give up his job because of the tolls:- Tam the Gun's explosive outburst over road tolls
Backing for Users proposals on Mersey Tunnels Tolls
Following our story on 20th October, there is more backing for the proposals from Mersey Tunnels Users Association:- Pressure grows for tunnel tolls cut
Call to Abolish Toll on Severn Bridges
Plaid Cymru have produced an alternative Queen's Speech. It includes abolishing tolls on Severn bridges.
Perhaps we will get a rerun of the "Rebecca Riots" in early 1840's where Welshmen dressed as women and attached the turnpikes. Many of those caught were sent to Australia. Thinks .... is this why Oz has so many toll roads? Do they fear that if they complain they will be transported back to Britain!
21 November 2004
Irish motorists fume while Toll rakes in the money
The Sunday Times has a report on the West-Link toll bridge. The bridge was opened in 1990 and is operated by a private company with the Irish government getting a share of the tolls.
According to the report, the bridge has already made 300 million, and will make 1 billion by the time that tolls are "due" to end in 2020. The report by Frank Fitzgibbon says that "Motorists who have become all too familiar with the West-Link and its surrounding countryside as they sit motionless in traffic jams may well have burst a blood vessel as this news filtered through their car radios."
Tolls may slow Chinese growth
Channel News Asia reports bottlenecks in China's transport system. The bottleneck is said to be not enough trains and railway lines. In the meantime there is excess trucking capacity and "State media have said reason for the excess capacity in the sector may be that companies are being discouraged by high expressway tolls".
20 November 2004
Convoy against Extension of London Toll Tax
The BBC has reported that a small convoy of cars from the West London Residents' Association travelled to the London Mayor's house in Cricklewood to protest aganst his proposed expansion of the toll tax zone.
Greens say scrap tolls
Not much news today, so here is an ongoing story. Barcleona has long standing plans for a fourth ring road ""Quart Cinturů". It would be the first part of the "Eje Prelitoral CatalŠn" (the Catalonian precoastal trunk road). It runs parrallel to the existing A7 motorway, and would go from the frontier with France to Valencia.
The road is opposed by a coalition of nearly 300 organisations including Greens etc. Well what's odd about this?
It's that they have an alternative 4 point plan:-
"1. Remove the motorway tolls. With the return to public ownership of the sections of motorway affected by consessions and lease extensions, the capacity of the existing motorway would be considerably increased."
2. Improve the capacity of existing roads ... through the building of new feeder roads and additional lanes where really necessary."
( Points 3 and 4 are improvements to train and bus services.)
19 November 2004
Tolls help sell property (outside the toll area)
An Edinburgh property agent is selling an empty office block on the basis that tenants will be able to avoid the proposed road toll:- Office uses toll position to sell itself
But one of the advocates of the toll says that businesses inside the toll area will get more customers because there will be less vehicles.
Not quite Back to Bataan
The Sun Star of Pampanga in the Phillipines reports on the North Luzon Expressway which is being modernsised and being taken over by Manila North Tollways Corp.
Tolls are to go up to 500% of the present rate. But there will be discounts!
The more you use it the more you will save. Now isn't that the best way to beat Global Warming, particularly if your car is air conditioned.
18 November 2004
Ireland the best place to live?
IrelandOn-Line reports that the National Roads Authority is considering putting tolls on the M50 to "cut congestion on the motorway."
What will be the effect elsewhere?
Coincidentally Ireland was today said by the Economist magazine to be "the best place to live in the world".
We have compared the Economist top ten countries with the number of toll roads but there seems to be no correlation:-
17 November 2004
Edinburgh Students want Tolls
It is reported in the Scotsman that at a meeting of student activists last night, 4 out of 5 wanted tolls. The students applauded Labour and the Greens, and criticised the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who oppose tolls for Edinburgh.
The students will be able to vote in the Tolls referendum.
Blue Dog and others bite on Tolls
Steven Sisson (Valley Blue Dog) writing in Augusta Free Press says:-
"First, toll roads will hamper economic prosperity of the Shenandoah Valley - and residential traffic - not to mention lessen our quality of life.
Second, tolls are a death sentence for regional manufacturing facilities along with independent truckers and agribusinesses, farming and timber industries, throughout the Valley.
Third, Shenandoah Valley tourism, the third most profitable business in our area, would take a heavy loss - with the combination of a 15- to 20-year construction period and the eventual tolling.
Fourth, tolls are essentially nothing more than a tax increase.
It's a lose-lose-lose-lose scenario for the residents of the Valley."
"There is no doubt, that I-81 tolls will drive local residents off the interstate and into the regional unemployment lines. It's beyond reason to double tax these citizens." Full article:- Beefy bureaucracy
Also today in USA, an editorial in Dover-Sherborn Press says- "We want the tolls either capped, reduced or eliminated altogether."
In Australia, the Narooma News quotes local councillor Allan Brown - "I'm not sure that all residents ... would support additional cost to use something for which they already supply funds by various mechanisms. Paying an additional fee to use something that is already being paid for is robbery."
16 November 2004
Cars for the New York toll collectors?
Nynewsday.com has reported that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (which runs the public transport and collects tolls on bridges and tunnels) spends over $1 million on staff cars.
Riot in China
A riot in Guangdong province of China started after a woman was beaten up by staff at a bridge toll-booth after complaining she had been overcharged. One person was killed:- Toll dispute sparks Chinese riot
According to the Washington Times: "The city Public Security Department has asked people involved in the incident to turn themselves in by Tuesday or risk severe repercussions. "
Will New Zealand be First to ban Tolls?
The New Zealand Herald has reported pressure to get rid of the only toll road in New Zealand. The reason is that trucks are avoiding the toll and causing pressure on other less suitable roads:- Pressure on Tauranga council to abandon toll
15 November 2004
"Nobody loves the Turnpike Authority"
Paul Schlichtman writing in Metro West Daily News of Massachusetts, says:-
"Nobody loves the Turnpike Authority. Designed to be purposefully unaccountable, it was created so elected officials wouldn't need to worry about political pressure generated by unpopular tolls. Bondholder interests were protected by an agency that could raise enough toll revenue to pay the bills, and employ lots of friends, without fear of voter retribution."
"Toll booths are the costly overhead expense that makes the Turnpike an expensive stretch of asphalt to operate. If you get rid of the toll booths and toll collectors and the toll collecting infrastructure, you get rid of the need for the Turnpike's expensive and wasteful duplicate bureaucracy. Present a plan to banish the bureaucracy and eliminate the tolls, that would be excellent. Even if we needed another penny on the gas tax to support the roads financed through the wasteful toll booth bureaucracy, it would be cheaper, more efficient, and better for the environment. Besides, with the oil companies raising gas prices daily, an additional penny would hardly be noticed."
14 November 2004
Highway tolls not welcome in Ohio
This is the message from an Ohio newspaper who say that tolls "would be the wrong fee at the wrong time":- Ohio should say no to highway tolls
Trans Israel Highway in Profit
Haaretz.com reports that Israel's only toll road, the Trans Israel Highway, is expected to start making large profits. The road is owned and operated by Derech Eretz and has been built and opened in stages, with first stretch opened in 2002.
The report says that over 95% of drivers pay the toll. We are surprised that there are any drivers who don't pay, as you can end up with your car impounded!
13 November 2004
Don't avoid Tolls - YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
A New Jersey man kept driving through a toll without paying around $1,300 in tolls. He has been fined about $25,000 and sentenced to 4 years probation.
They are now to also charge his wife.
We guess that they are lucky that avoiding tolls is not yet a capital offence!
12 November 2004
Cost of Tolls
The Evening News in Edinburgh has revealed that "More than £8 million of taxpayers' money will have been spent on Edinburgh's road toll proposals - before the public has a say on whether the controversial scheme should go ahead." Road tolls will cost taxpayers £8m before vote
Edinburgh is only spending £8.8 million this year on maintaining all its roads etc. Would it not be better if more money was spent on roads rather than on tolls?
Fire Stops Toll
Recently we have had tolls suspended because of hurricanes and a victory parade (RedSox), now a fire has the same effect:-
A paper warehouse fire in Melbourne needed 100 firefighters to control it, and tolls were suspended on the CityLink road.
If you want traffic to flow freely, then tolls don't make sense.
Ontario to review toll complaints
According to canada.com the provincial government is to look into increasing complaints about electronic tolling on one road. Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar said "Our ministry continues to get a lot of complaints about the 407 ETR, especially about incorrect billings and false or incorrect charges". A spokesman for the toll company said that only a very small percentage of people complained.
USA Road Toll
We suggested on the 3rd that the Republican victory in USA would mean more tolls. Here are some of the reports in last few days:-
10 November 2004
"No need for road tolls in Dundee"
The Evening Telegraph in Dundee has reported that as part of a Scottish Executive consultation exercise, officers are recommending that road tolls are not introduced into the city. That is welcome, but how about the toll that has to be paid to cross into that fair city from across the Tay?
Oh what a circus!
Boots have joined in complaints about the effect on shops of the proposed road tolls for Edinburgh:- Road tolls will tighten supermarkets' grip
9 November 2004
M6 Toll decline
BBC News report that the October figures for the new toll road show a fall in traffic. Decline in M6 Toll road traffic
This is welcome news, particularly as the major road works on the non toll M6 are not finished. We still expect traffic figures to grow, though a toll road will never carry the volume of traffic that a new road should.
8 November 2004
Drivers Reject Tolls
We don't know if any will be surprised that 73% of Scottish drivers don't want tolls. Drivers reject tolls in poll
But what we don't understand is why it wasn't 100%!
Oh what a circus!
The Herald Sun in Australia today reported that Transurban, a private road operator, is suing the Government of Victoria for $36 million. The reason?
The company says Wurundjeri Way, in the Docklands, draws traffic away from its toll road. And the company says that under it's contract it can claim if improvements to other roads affect it's business.
"Cash generating machines"
Bloomberg.com say Societe d'Autoroutes Paris-Rhin- Rhone, Europe's third-biggest highway operator, plans to raise at least 843 million euros in France's second- largest share sale this year.
One fund manager quoted said ``The highway operators are real cash-generating machines''
We reckon that he knows what he's talking about.
7 November 2004
New York, New York thinks about tolls
New York is thinking of new ways to get money. Some of the bridges and tunnels are already tolled. It is now considering tolling the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Queensboro bridges over the East River. They reckon that they could get $500 to 700 million a year.
The New York Times reported this as "Bridges Loom as Cash Cow That Nobody Dares to Milk". Let's hope that they do not dare.
The way the wind blows in Scotland?
Scotland on Sunday today carried a profile of Shonaig Macpherson, who is a non executive director in the Scottish Executive. The profile says that she is an "advocate of road tolls". Let us hope that this is not a sign of the way things are likely to go in Scotland.
6 November 2004
SKAT, a founder member of NAAT, had a general meeting tonight in Portree the Skye capital.
The Scottish Parliament has promised that the tolls will go this year. There will be fireworks in January, hopefully to celebrate the Parliament keeping its promise and the hated tolls going.
4 November 2004
MSPs to avoid tolls
The Scotsman has discovered that there is a loophole in the proposed Edinburgh Tolls scheme so that those working at Scottish Parliament won't have to pay. As the Evening News says "... it seems that insult has been added to injury, not only for those thousands of Edinburgh residents who now face paying to cross the outer cordon, but everyone else who would have to pay the congestion charge to enter the inner cordon - Scottish Parliament staff and MSPs will be exempt ... To ordinary people who face having to pay to drive into their own city centre ... this will seem like one rule for the privileged and another for them. It will reinforce the perception that the toll is another layer of taxation."
3 November 2004
Victory for Tolls in USA
Though it was not the dominant issue in US elections, tolls was frequently raised at the lower level elections taking place at the same time as the Presidential elections.
In general the Republicans were in favour of low taxes on the rich, low "gas" taxes, and tolls. Democrats wanted to tax the rich more, and were against more tolls.
So it looks like the rich driving gas guzzlers get to keep the poor off "their" roads.
There are some in Britain who think that "New" Labour is very close to the Republicans on things other than Iraq:- Road tolls to hit the poor hardest
The authority that runs the Forth bridge is to spend nearly £5 million on electronic tolls. This is despite the possibility that tolls might be stopped.:- Electronic tolls on road bridge
Spooks in the car
According to PCPro, BT is working on new technology to go into cars to help motorists. But the fear is that it would be used for tolls.
The Russians are thinking of bringing in tolls for foreign trucks, as their vehicles are hit by tolls in rest of Europe:-" Russia to Introduce Road Toll for Foreign Trucks in 2005
2 November 2004
Europe joins together on Tolls
European toll operators are trialling interoperable electronic fee collection (EFC) systems. At the moment the electronic sytems vary as do the arrangements for debitting bank accounts. One reason is to "increase the comfort of users and reduce congestion at tolls". Scrapping tolls would have the same effect.
Europhiles will be pleased to know that the trials ("Pilot on Interoperable Systems for Tolling Applications") are partly funded with EU money:- PISTA
USA truckers go to Court
According to mccall.com a Federal court case started yesterday with the American Trucking Associations Inc suing a Toll Bridge Commission.
The truckers are protesting about the use of the tolls as a cash cow. Sound familiar?
Florida hit by Tolls
Doubling of tolls on the Sanibel Causeway has led to complaints including:- "I feel like this is worse than the hurricane," said Heidi Thibaut, owner of Comfort by Design, a Sanibel shoe store. "It is a negative image. In the last few weeks, customers who had driven from Marco and Fort Myers said they weren't going to come anymore." Sanibel feels pinch of toll
1 November 2004
Ken wears Janus mask
On the 19th October we reported that the London Mayor was lifting tolls between Christmas and New Year. He has today told the BBC that he wants to increase the toll from £5 to £6 as soon as possible "following consultation".
Capitalism comes to Poland
Last week the A2 Wielkopolska Freeway opened between PoznaŮ and Nowy Tomy. They have learnt from us so well they call it a "free"way even though it's tolled.
£3million to "market" M6 toll
MEL (the operator of M6 toll) said that they spent £3 million marketing the road (report in Shropshire Star).
Stop Tolls to remove congestion
One USA town is considering encouraging commuters to use the Thruway that runs just north of the town by eliminating tolls for commuters. Though the tolls are low it appears that motorists will go through the congested town rather than pay:-" Rush-hour gridlock vexes Victor
There was a similar story the day before from Boston. It was suggested that the main reason for all the traffic through one area of the city is that "drivers wanted to escape paying tolls" in another area.
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