Greater Anglia trains plans bike ban

"Rising concerns about conflicts" & "understandable concerns about safety" lead to 'consultation' with predetermined outcome

by John Stevenson   October 4, 2013  

Greater Anglia (CC licenced by Alex Drennan:Flickr)

Train operator Greater Anglia wants people to stop taking bikes on its trains and is planning a carrot-and-stick approach to discouraging them, except that there’s not much carrot.

Buried at the bottom of the company’s ‘Cycling with Greater Anglia’ page is the news that “Greater Anglia is consulting on its updated Cycle Strategy and we welcome the views of individuals and cycling groups, as well as those of local authorities.”

A link takes you to a PDF that outlines the new strategy, which, if implemented will see the company have to change the title of this page to ‘Cycling without Greater Anglia’.

The document kicks off with all the usual flannel about how wonderful cycling is and how “Greater Anglia is a vigorous supporter of the development of cycling as sustainable transport” and observing that “increasing numbers of our customers are using their bikes for the journey to and from the station.”

You can feel a great big ‘but’ coming, can’t you? Here it is: “We have to bear in mind that cyclists will continue to constitute a minority in terms of our overall customer base. We must be mindful of the impact of cyclists and their cycles on the majority of rail users, particularly at busy stations and on trains, where there are rising concerns about conflicts.”

Then there’s a load of stuff about how fabulous coming to a Greater Anglia station with a bike is going to be. But if you’re planning to take that bike on a train, woah, stop right there, cowboy: “We have to balance [demand to take bikes on trains] with the views of our customers as a whole, some of whom are beginning to voice understandable concerns about the safety of carrying large numbers of cycles at peak times. Our objective for the medium to long term is therefore to reduce the carriage of cycles on trains by stimulating behavioural change.”

Greater Anglia’s proposed solution is “a ‘corridor approach’ where a specific problem exists with cycles on trains, and to provide secure cycle parking and hire at both ends of the train journey so that customers are encouraged to either have a cycle at both stations, or to take advantage of cycle hire”.

However, if attempting to persuade people to park their expensive bikes at stations fails, then the stick will come out. Greater ANglia already restricts non-folding bikes on some peak time services in and out of London. The draft policy says: “We will keep these restrictions under review, but as the use of our services continues to grow, we believe that we and future franchisees will have to consider a
widening of the restrictions to cover other routes and services.”

Ian Hopgood, a regular user of Greater Anglia trains said, “A large number of people use Greater Anglia railways to commute between Norwich-London, Lowestoft-London etc with their bikes. I know that we're a lucky bunch in East Anglia with the ability to still travel with bikes, but it'd be a shame to lose it.”

Caroline Page, Suffolk County Council member for Woodbridge, has also pointed out problems with GreaterAnglia’s plans. She says that the idea of using other transport or bike hire “ will go down a storm with those passengers who need to take a train to and from a rural destination, such as Wickham Market – where there IS no sustainable transport and no likelihood of cycle hire.”

Ms Page urges everyone who uses Greater Anglia trains with their bikes to contact the company, though she says they haven’t exactly made it easy.

She writes: “The consultation relies on one to download a pdf on a website and then make a  response in writing, or by email – not that I am suggesting that this is in order to discourage you from responding. No hotlinks are included anywhere – with the possible result that it might discourage all but the most determined.  I urge you to persevere despite this.”

Here’s a link to Download the Greater Anglia Draft Cycle Strategy.

To respond by snailmail:

Cycle Strategy Responses
Greater Anglia
11th floor
One Stratford Place
LONDON E20 1EJ

Be sure to mark your letter ‘Draft Cycle Strategy’

Or email:

cyclestrategy@greateranglia.co.uk

31 user comments

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Wankers

posted by simeond [20 posts]
4th October 2013 - 14:32

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We must be mindful of the impact of cyclists and their cycles on the majority of rail users, particularly at busy stations and on trains, where there are rising concerns about conflicts
Surely, if cyclists are the minority of train users, than the majority of train passengers are actually unaffected by cyclists as they do their journey without being affected by one, or indeed seeing one.

posted by Wolfshade [101 posts]
4th October 2013 - 14:34

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Ridiculous and backwards looking. The Dutch would laugh at us.

posted by pjay [225 posts]
4th October 2013 - 14:39

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Lets cram more passengers in... Thinking

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posted by jimmythecuckoo [1243 posts]
4th October 2013 - 14:44

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Hi

I have just read the document and I read nothing that constitutes any sort of threat of a ban on bikes per se but that is how the headline reads. Sure non-folding bikes are banned from many commuter services but given the crowded nature of these trains (and given that Greater Anglia, if given a longer franchise will aim for double decker trains to alleviate this overcrowding) the ban on non-folding bikes is understandable. I have never heard any complaints from cyclists about this policy, those that need to take a bike get a folding bike whilst those that use it just from home to station are well catered for as you will read below.

The local services such as Sudbury to Marks Tey do allow a small number of non-folding bikes in Peak Hours and this can and does cause issues, mainly due to the aged nature of the rolling stock and the carriage design, they may well ban cycles on local services at peak times and though unfortunate, given the levels of overcrowding understandable.
I am sure that, given a longer franchise and the opportunity to use more suitable rolling stock, this may just be a temporary measure.

Off Peak trains are a different matter though, my local service (Sudbury to Marks Tey) is very good at taking cycles, I see nothing in this document that suggests changing that. A few months ago I travelled from Sudbury entirely via Greater Anglia to Great Yarmouth and back, Greater Anglia were most accommodating both on the local services, and the Intercity Service from Colchester to Norwich.

Where Greater Anglia does so much good is in upgrading cycle storage facilities at stations. Every station you go to has at least some covered cycle storage and at Sudbury the old lean to has been replaced by new storage facilities increasing the capacity (but which is probably still not enough). At Marks Tey the new and massive Double Story cycle point is full and they even have facilities for motorbikes.

Another notable pat on the back for Greater Anglia is that they provide extra guards vans to and from Ipswich and Darsham to accommodate the extra cycles every year from the Dunwich Dynamo. They need not do this but do so willingly.

May I, tongue firmly in cheek, suggest the headline writer has been taking too much of a lead from the Daily Mail, maybe his next article is "How Chris Boardman Hated Bikes"

posted by TechnoTim2012 [6 posts]
4th October 2013 - 14:53

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What a load of backwards bollocks! bravo! Applause

posted by condor_rider_1988 [30 posts]
4th October 2013 - 14:55

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Can't imagine them applying the same policy to pushchairs/wheelchairs/large items of luggage..

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posted by glynr36 [363 posts]
4th October 2013 - 15:04

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I hate folding bikes. Brompton have a lot to answer for by providing an argument for train companies to kill any provision for cyclists who don't have or want a folding bike.

SWT bans all non-folding bikes on journeys into London from Reading during morning rush hour and removed the bike spaces from their trains. Without the invention of the folding bike they'd never have got away with this.

(and don't get me started on the fact that my journey actually finishes about an hour outside London but I'm still not allowed a bike..)

posted by bobbypuk [16 posts]
4th October 2013 - 15:12

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I had heard a whisper that Dutch railways bans non-folding bikes on Peak time trains and http://www.cycletourer.co.uk/cycletouring/holland.shtml confirms this.

"It is possible to take your bikes on the Dutch trains, although you will not be able to take them on some rush hour trains on working days (Monday/Friday) between 6:30 am and 9 am and between 4:30 pm and 6 pm on nearly all trains. In July and August there are no such limitations. Contact Nederlandse Spoorwagen (Netherlands Railways) for more details. "

So this is not unique to the UK unless you think the dutch have got their cycling policies all wrong Nerd

posted by TechnoTim2012 [6 posts]
4th October 2013 - 15:21

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Was at Bracknell Station a week ago today and various announcements warning cyclists not to consider taking their bikes out of London (the other way) on the train as it was basically considered antisocial behaviour. I got on the train with my bike, going the other way, feeling like despite my £9 fare and the fact this didn't apply to my journey, I wasn't really welcome. I realise the last thing packed commuter trains need is a load of bikes making the problem worse, but this sentiment was all wrong, train companies should be apologetic if their services can't accomodate travellers with bikes, not labling them antisocial. How about "we're really sorry not to be able to admit non-folding bikes between x and y hours because of the sheer volume of passengers"? They kind of need to come up with a solution to that problem, but in the meantime don't alienate people.

posted by Mendip James [19 posts]
4th October 2013 - 15:42

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TechnoTim2012 wrote:

I read nothing that constitutes any sort of threat of a ban on bikes per se

You have to decode the weaselling attempts to sound pro-bike while not actually being so, but this is a clear threat to impose bans on more services if people don't stop taking bikes on trains of their own accord:

"we believe that we ... will have to consider a widening of the restrictions to cover other routes and services."

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posted by John Stevenson [1022 posts]
4th October 2013 - 16:15

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I always find it amusing how bikes are banned from some services but Mums/Dads can leave their pushchairs blocking the door or seats. The pushchairs have a folding function but they choose not to use it because... well, why should they... Thinking

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posted by fancynancy [58 posts]
4th October 2013 - 16:16

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This company won the franchise on the basis that they could reduce the levels of fraudulent travel and pay more money to the government. Unfortunately there was not as much fraud as they thought; to the degree that they did barrier checks at Liverpool Street, inconveniencing thousands of rush hour passengers, in an attempt to catch Metropolitan Police officers misusing their warrant cards for travel to work..... You would not credit the level of desperation!

The problem is that they need revenue or to reduce costs. There is little saving to be made as they run four carriage trains during the day which is why my train at 15:13 today was full and standing (it's the reduced capacity that is the issue) which is why bikes on trains are a problem. They are looking to close booking offices but this will undoubtedly increase the level of fraud.

The Managing Director has left the company and I sincerely hope their franchise will not be renewed.

As we all hate nationalised industry in this country (if you believe our politicians) I fail to understand why this franchise is run by the State owned Dutch Railways; the German state owned railways run a number of other lines and the French state owned railways are bidding for the East Coast route!

British Rail may have cost us money but were focused on reducing costs to the tax payer and passenger. This lot are focused on maximising profits and any target will do.

posted by Legin [37 posts]
4th October 2013 - 16:52

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Greater Anglia's predecessors, Anglia, routinely walked off with the "Most Bike-Friendly Train Operator" award: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2347477.stm . How are the mighty fallen...

(hmmmm, the browser works much faster if I close the "smileys" dropdown and it doesn't have to animate 50 gifs all at once!)

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posted by Doctor Fegg [134 posts]
4th October 2013 - 17:02

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SWT at Woking have removed loads of bike spaces for a Brompton hire facility. You used to get 30 bikes in that space.

posted by freespirit1 [155 posts]
4th October 2013 - 20:20

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TechnoTim2012 wrote:
Where Greater Anglia does so much good is in upgrading cycle storage facilities at stations. Every station you go to has at least some covered cycle storage and at Sudbury the old lean to has been replaced by new storage facilities increasing the capacity (but which is probably still not enough).

Indeed, using a fair bit of public money part (half?) from the council to part fund it, GA built a covered, secure facility at Witham with space for 60 bikes.

Unfortunately, they then they put fob-controlled entry on it, and issued a grand total of 75 fobs.

Consequently, the parking was less than a third full with everybody else forced to use the railings just like before our council tax money was spent on the facility.

They then issued another 40 fobs around May time (so now the parking is sometimes almost half full!).

I've been on the waiting list since somewhere around April. GA on their twitter feed won't answer questions about the waiting list or the issue of further fobs.

You need to look beyond the shiny covered storage to the facts of who paid and who is allowed to use it Sad

posted by Oaky [6 posts]
4th October 2013 - 21:15

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My partner and I live on a boat and our bicycles are our only form of transport. We often cruise the Rivers Lee and Stort and make good use of the Greater Anglia trains in and out of London to various stations along the line (which runs parallel to the rivers).

I have no problem with a ban on cycles on peak time trains, this is normal for nearly all rail services these days and makes sense given the increasing passenger numbers.

We tend to arrange our work so we can travel off peak firstly because Greater Anglia like most rail providers has made good use of current national policy to increase their prices expediently and off peak is cheaper, and secondly to because we want to take our bikes even if only a couple of stations until we are within cycling range of London for e.g. Bishops Stortford to Broxbourne by train then cycle.

I can safely say that we have never had any problem getting us and our bikes on board off peak trains and have never ever come into conflict with other passengers whilst in transit or at stations.

I'm pleased to see they are intending to improve facilities for cyclists including the hire schemes which I am sure will appeal to many commuters but not us, however, I believe their policy to be a little contradictory and any further restrictions on either folding or non folding cycles unnecessary.

posted by djm778 [33 posts]
4th October 2013 - 22:58

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The day I picked up my bike it travelled from Liverpool Street to Chingford on Greater Anglia. That line gets standing room only at peak, but it's ok at other times.

Banning bikes outright is ridiculous. I'm going to write to my MP. Or Boris. Or someone.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [819 posts]
4th October 2013 - 23:40

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I've been impressed when using Greater Anglia trains from London to Norwich to visit family and do some cycle touring. They're one of the few companies that actually have a proper guard's van for your bikes, which keeps them safe and out of the way. I'm concerned by the suggestion that they want to move away from taking bikes on trains in favour of secure parking and bike hire - those things are great, but they're no use if your aim is touring, MTB, road biking - basically anything other than commuting. I've responded, and I hope that CTC and Sustrans have a fairly robust response to this consultation!

posted by babybat [21 posts]
5th October 2013 - 16:38

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fancynancy wrote:
I always find it amusing how bikes are banned from some services but Mums/Dads can leave their pushchairs blocking the door or seats. The pushchairs have a folding function but they choose not to use it because... well, why should they... Thinking

Maybe because the baby within is asleep?! Just speaking from experience!

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posted by Ghedebrav [1091 posts]
6th October 2013 - 9:20

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The lack of effort by Greater Anglia to recognise that we need a 'joined-up' national
transport system is disappointing. A train does not take you door-to-door. Sounds like they are promoting the car as the best system and are content to be second best.

Thankfully, there are other places to visit by train and bike. Just sorry for the people stuck with such a backward-looking company.

posted by chaos [8 posts]
6th October 2013 - 10:01

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In that part of the Great Railway farce run for the benefit of East Midlands Trains senior management and shareholders we get to enjoy the little joke of space for about two bikes, half the train packed beyond the point that would make a sardine protest - and half the train empty, the seats apparently being filled by phantom first class passengers.

As to FirstCrapitalDisconect!!!.....(starts to foam at the mouth and is lead away for a quite lie down)

posted by HowardR [18 posts]
7th October 2013 - 9:52

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....And thats another thing.... Mr Branson and his £30,000 profit per employee per year:
[li]
http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/08/31/dont-be-fooled-by-his-west-coa...
[/li]

posted by HowardR [18 posts]
7th October 2013 - 10:20

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If we were serious about promoting cycling as a travel option in the UK we would have legislation stating that all of the train companies must make provision for cycles on all services at all times. Having the ability to make rules like this and leave them to the operating companies to deliver is a benefit of privitisation that we fail to take advantage of.

As someone who has commuted by bike/train in the past I have had my share of difficulties (different operating company I should add). In one job this was sufficient to make me switch to the car, although I still used my bike for the last part of the journey to save parking dollars.

posted by Matt eaton [395 posts]
7th October 2013 - 13:39

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pjay wrote:
The Dutch would laugh at us.

Not really. The Dutch model is lots of parking at railway stations, very little room for bikes on trains. It has to be this way, otherwise the Dutch train system would be swamped by bikes.

Video of all this in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypy07XFArmI

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posted by Carlton Reid [108 posts]
8th October 2013 - 17:11

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Some of the comments are seriously misinformed and plain wrong.

It costs around £2 million to buy a new train carriage these days, and you need to get an income to pay for the whole life costs of running and maintaining it for say 30-40 years, with perhaps one massive rebuilding job about half way through, when the technical advances of the past 20 years can be introduced.

With their log rules and slide tables (in times not too long past) and now with spreadsheets and screens, the train operators can tell you how much each space on the train needs to earn every day. They would love to find ways to maximise that as at £2m a pop plus the running and maintenance costs that is a lot of earning needed and unlike a private car which on average sits idle for 95% of the time, trains are running at least 70% of the day during the normal week.

We do get a spanner in the works thanks to the DfT who like a nice simple formula of a set number of seats at the morning peak time taking happy commuters in to work, so that the right boxes can be ticked. Sadly this upsets the train operators who can see great opportunities to attract passengers with luggage and even prams & cycles, of it was not for the fixed seating that has to be shoehorned in (how many people prefer to stand rather than sit in 3+2 seating?), so someone can claim that there are 'more seats' now going in to London....

So we have a fine old battleground with DfT demanding fixed seating and as much as possible on the least number of carriages, wheelchair users wanting the specified number of spaces, train operators wanting space for luggage, catering, bikes, and occasionally remembering the guard needs a place to go - not forgetting the Network Rail emergency equipment to evacuate passengers on to the track which so often seems to end up blocking a bike space on an HST or DVT van!

Let's work with the guys - especially the front line staff who have show what can be done with a bit of organising, and get some realism in the focus. It has always been bikes WITH trains right back to the notes in The Gazette in the early 1880's, when in 1882 CTC negotiated a standard for cycle carriage charges and services with "Every Railway Company in the Kingdom"

It there is any key target to lobby for cycle carriage it has to be DfT to convince them that trains can be designed with the flexibility to carry commuters to work with minimal luggage and those out for a day or longer with their bikes and bags. We know it works - some groups report 70% of more of the passengers on well designed trains can be travelling with bikes, and on one recent occasion over 90 bikes on a 6 coach train.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [481 posts]
8th October 2013 - 18:16

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Bring back bicycle tickets. I remember them in my youth and I read that Belgium and some other countriesv ask people to pay a reduced fare to take bikes on.

Reading their PDF, it looks like the f restrictions don't change much this time, but there's a lot of anti-cyclist rhetoric in there.

posted by a.jumper [696 posts]
10th October 2013 - 8:11

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babybat wrote:
I've been impressed when using Greater Anglia trains from London to Norwich to visit family and do some cycle touring. They're one of the few companies that actually have a proper guard's van for your bikes, which keeps them safe and out of the way.

+1 to that. Me and my wife rode home from Norwich to Oxford in 2008, having visited friends for the weekend. It was our first proper tour and encouraged us to be more adventurous in future.

We couldn't have done this if not for the relatively enlightened trains (and guards) who took us and our bikes there safely. (I can't remember how we took the bikes from Oxford to London in the first place - I have a suspicion it might have been on the "Oxford Tube", which confusingly enough is actually a bus!).

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posted by PJ McNally [586 posts]
10th October 2013 - 9:26

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pjay wrote:
Ridiculous and backwards looking. The Dutch would laugh at us.

Actually they wouldn't. In the Netherlands it's situation normal for bike-rail commuters to keep a bike at both ends - as suggested by Anglia - or use a folder. In the Netherlands you've NEVER been able to take a non-folding bike on most commuter trains (unless you've got a through ticket to connect with another longer-distance train), because everyone cycles in the Netherlands, so the trains would be totally swamped with bikes. Even as it is, the increased numbers of commuters bringing folding bikes onto Dutch trains are generating an escalating number of complaints about barked shins and laddered stockings etc. and there are are rumblings about banning folders too!

Face reality: bikes on trains as a commuting mode is possible only in countries like USA, Australia and UK, where almost nobody wants to cycle. Not being able to do that anymore, is one of the very few downsides in making cycling more popular.

In the Netherlands of course, they do station bike parking properly. You generally have to pay, but it's quite cheap and in exchange you do get peace of mind that nobody else will take your bike. And the Dutch don't use the cycling equivalent of a F1 racing car for the journey to work. They use a more practical but less expensive kind of bike, so where parking is free and less secure they don't have to worry as much. But lets hope that Anglia do station bike parking properly: provide lots of it, with convenient access to the platforms and either cheap and well controlled, or free with strongpoints for locking and CCTV.

Crankwinder

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posted by Crankwinder [17 posts]
21st October 2013 - 10:58

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Crankwinder wrote:
But lets hope that Anglia do station bike parking properly: provide lots of it, with convenient access to the platforms and either cheap and well controlled, or free with strongpoints for locking and CCTV.

The shambles at Cambridge station - where bike parking exposed to the elements (and near nice bird roosting and pooping spots), overcrowded and where bike theft is so rife that you can whip out a set of bolt croppers and ride off unchallenged (see Cambridgeshire police videos on this site recently), followed by a scrum to get through too few ticket gates - does not make me optimistic.

Given it actually says in the plan that they want to make taking your bike less attractive (crazy!), don't you think that making stations nastier for people with bikes to use may be part of the plan?

posted by a.jumper [696 posts]
21st October 2013 - 12:37

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