Mar 31, 2014

3 Companies Leading the Charge in the U.S. Railroad Resurgence

A combination of both the domestic economic recovery and the oil-by-rail boom has been a shot in the arm for rail companies during the past year or so. This surging demand shows no sign of letting up just yet, which is great news for the three main railcar leasing and manufacturing companies: American Railcar Industries , Trinity Industries , and The Greenbrier Companies . 

Surging traffic

According to data from the Association of American Railroads, during the third week of March, total combined U.S. weekly rail traffic was 545,366 carloads and intermodal units, up 7% compared with the same week last year. However, the number of crude oil cartloads moved by rail showed an even more impressive increase. The AAR reported that 108,590 carloads of crude were shipped during the fourth quarter of 2013, bringing total crude movements for the year to 407,642 carloads; this was a 74% increase over the 233,819 carloads transported during 2012. That said, during 2013 crude oil only accounted for 1.4% of total cartloads.

With the volume of railroad traffic within the U.S. continuing to grow, it is likely that the railcar leasing market will have another strong year as new cars are brought online to meet demand.

Smaller is better

American Railcar Industries is one of my personal favorite railcar companies. It is also the smallest company in terms of market capitalization discussed here.

American Railcar manufactures railcars of multiple styles, which is in itself a lucrative business as rail traffic rises. However, the company is also building its own railcar leasing division, and profits are already flowing in. American Railcar reported a strong 21% rise in adjusted earnings before interest, tax, amortization, and depreciation for full-year 2013; this was thanks to a combination of two factors. Firstly, the company managed to improve the gross margin by 10%, from 20.8% to 23.8%. Secondly, it also reported a 140% jump in railcar leasing revenue.

Now, railcar leasing is an extremely lucrative business to be in and American Railcar is reaping the benefits from moving into this market. For example, the company's gross margin from leasing was 58% during 2013, while the gross margin from manufacturing was only 22%. Railcars tend to be leased on contracts lasting several years, which locks in cash flow. The company is continuing to expand its fleet as well, with 2,330 railcars for lease in its manufacturing backlog. American Railcar's backlog also includes 8,560 railcars for other customers, most of which are tanker cars that are required to keep up with the oil-by-rail boom. After a 36% jump in earnings during 2013, American Railcar's future looks bright with analyst forecasting a 13% jump in earnings this year.

A more diversified play

Like American Railcar, Trinity Industries is in the business of railcar manufacturing and leasing. The company is also involved in barge manufacturing, construction services, and more. It's even a major wind-tower maker.

Over the past four years, Trinity has really benefited from the economic recovery in the United States. This is set to continue as rail traffic keeps expanding. Trinity Industries' revenue has averaged annual growth of 33% during the past four years, while earnings growth has averaged 115% per annum. Further, Trinity is actually a key part of the U.S. domestic rail infrastructure as the company is a market leader, essential to any rail recovery. During 2013, Trinity shipped 24,335 railcars, representing 46% of industry shipments during the year. The company also received orders for 32,240 railcars, representing 49% of the industry total during the year. At year end, the company's backlog for rail cars orders represented 55% of total industry backlog, worth around $5 billion.

Safety concerns

The oil-by-rail boom, although lucrative for some, has led to a number of fatal accidents, and many are now calling for tougher regulations to be brought in. according to The Greenbrier Companies CEO William Furman, around 80,000 tanker cars don't meet current safety standards and need to be replaced or retrofitted. This massive overhaul is going to be a boon for tanker manufacturers like Greenbrier, American Railcar, and Trinity.

Greenbrier is rising to this upcoming challenge, and in the words of Furman the company is "well positioned to respond" to shippers' retrofitting or new build needs. The company has announced that that it will design a new generation "Tank Car of the Future" for rail transport of hazardous freight, including flammable crude oil and ethanol, that can better withstand the additional demands associated with operating unit trains.

In North America, Greenbrier can build tank cars at a rate of 4,000 cars per year. It is increasing its capacity in light of higher demand for tank cars related to the energy renaissance in America. As of Nov. 30, 2013, 47% of Greenbrier's backlog consisted of tank cars .

Bottom line

Overall, Greenbrier, Trinity, and American Railcar all look well placed to ride the U.S. rail resurgence. However, Trinity, with its diversified operations and near 50% share of the U.S. railcar manufacturing capacity, looks to be in the best position to benefit in the long term.

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How the Internet of Things is Keeping Trains on Track

Before we start, here’s a warning: don’t let this story put you off your next train journey. Rail transport is extremely safe. Between 2000 and 2009, an average of just 22 Americans died per year travelling on trains. Compare that to more than 26,000 auto deaths.

And when you do a like-for-like comparison based on passenger-miles travelled, rail ties with air travel as the safest form of transport on the planet. It’s even safer than walking. That said, accidents do happen. Perhaps more often than you would think.

Across Europe, for example, there is an average of one or two train collisions every day, according to a 2010 European Union Railway Safety Report. Thankfully most of these aren’t bad enough to make the headlines.

But every accident is one too many, particularly given that rail technology has been around for some 200 years, far longer than cars or airplanes. Now, though, it looks as if technology of a much more modern kind might help avoid an important source of rail fatalities altogether.

Dr Thomas Strang, of the German Aerospace Center or DLR, has been working since 2006 on a way to prevent train collisions that draws on the kinds of sensor technologies seen in the Internet of Everything, which is defined as bringing together people, process, data, and things.

Train crashes tend to happen when several things fail at once, he explains. “If just one thing goes wrong it’s usually covered by a protection system.”

When he looked into the problem, Strang, who owns a pilot’s license, thought it was strange that trains did not have a traffic collision avoidance system like aircraft.

This ‘TCAS’ technology uses air-to-air radio communication and on-board transponders to warn pilots when another plane is getting too close.

Ships use a similar on-board collision avoidance alarm, but rail safety relies entirely on centrally controlled trackside systems. There is nothing inside a train to detect a potential collision problem. So why not build a TCAS for trains, thought Strang?

One problem was the definition of what constitutes ‘too close’. For aircraft, a near miss can be anything up to five nautical miles away. On railways, however, trains are designed to pass within a few feet of each other while travelling on parallel tracks.

The other challenge is that aircraft can avoid each other by moving away in any of three dimensions, but trains cannot. They work in what Strang calls one-and-a-half dimensions: backwards, forwards, and sideways at switch points.

To build a TCAS for rail, Strang and his team built a system that could use sensor and positioning data to determine exactly which track a train is travelling on. This can then be checked against the information provided by a similar system in an oncoming train.

If it looks like both vehicles are on the same track, off goes the alarm. It sounds simple in theory, but working out which track a train is on is not easy.

The Rail Collision Avoidance System, or RCAS, uses GPS data to work out what stretch of track it is travelling on, plus an inertial measurement unit to determine whether it is on the left- or right-hand track, based on how sharply the locomotive takes curves.

This information is then broadcast directly to other trains within a five-kilometer (three-mile) radius using a Terrestrial Trunked Radio. The system builds a map of the track as it travels along its usual routes, or can be fed mapping data in advance.

The beauty of RCAS is that it is an overlay system that complements other existing technologies to further improve safety. It doesn’t rely on base-stations or track-side equipment and it can be fitted to any train.

Intelligence on Wheels, the DLR spinoff commercializing RCAS, even has portable products for rolling stock and is developing a version for track workers.

RCAS has been commercially available since 2013 and last year got the European Rail Award for Excellence in Safety and Security. The system is being piloted by a number of railway operators worldwide.

“There are many technologies that try to avoid collisions,” Strang says. “But they do it in the traditional way, using lots of trackside sensors and base stations, which is very expensive. We put the information in the hands of the train drivers.”
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3 Road and Rail Stocks to Sell Now

The ratings of three road and rail stocks are down this week, according to the Portfolio Grader database. Each of these rates a “D” (“sell”) or “F” overall (“strong sell”).

Kansas City Southern (KSU) ratings are on the decline this week as the company earns an F (“strong sell”). Last week, it received a D (“sell”). Kansas City Southern operates a railroad system that provides shippers with rail freight services in commercial and industrial markets of the United States and Mexico. The stock has a trailing PE Ratio of 30.90. To get an in-depth look at KSU, get Portfolio Grader’s complete analysis of KSU stock.

The rating of Roadrunner Transportation Systems, Inc.(RRTS) declines this week from a D to an F. Roadrunner Transportation Systems offers truck freight transportation services. The stock gets F’s in Earnings Revisions and Earnings Surprise. For more information, get Portfolio Grader’s complete analysis of RRTS stock.

Guangshen Railway Co. Ltd. Sponsored ADR Class H’s (GSH) rating falls to a D (“sell”) this week, down from C (“hold”) the week prior. Guangshen Railway is a provider of railroad passenger and freight transportation, as well as railway network usage and services. For a full analysis of GSH stock, visit Portfolio Grader.

Louis Navellier’s proprietary Portfolio Grader stock ranking system assesses roughly 5,000 companies every week based on a number of fundamental and quantitative measures. Stocks are given a letter grade based on their results — with A being “strong buy,” and F being “strong sell.” Explore the tool here.
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Appeal to Labour over rail fares

A leading rail union is urging Labour to freeze train fares if it wins the next general election amid fresh claims that passengers have been "ripped off" for years.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association said fares had "gone through the roof" since rail privatisation 20 years ago.

A study for the union found the biggest increases over the past 20 years were for a walk-on return from London to Manchester on Virgin - up from £93 to £321 - and a return from London to Bristol on First Great Western - up from £53 to £193 - both rises of 245%.

Other return fares from London to cities such as Liverpool, Cardiff, Birmingham, Nottingham, Glasgow, Leeds and Newcastle had also had also risen by "eye- watering" amounts, according to the union.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: "This proves what every passenger knows in their bones - the private rail industry has been ripping us all off for the past 20 years,

"Fares on the most popular routes have more than trebled, rising three times faster than the rate of inflation.

"The Tories obviously took us all for April Fools in 1994, promising to actually cut fares but allowing them to go through the roof instead.

"We now want Labour to give rail passengers a real break by introducing a one- year freeze from January 2016."
Source-belfast telegraph

China’s high-speed rail is so popular, it’s hurting the domestic airline industry

Faster than a speeding airplane? Reuters/stringer

China Southern Airlines is the latest Chinese airline to post miserable year-end 2013 results. Net profit dropped 24% to 1.99 billion yuan ($321 million), and operating profit fell 70%. China Southern Airlines joins Air China, where net profit dropped 32% in 2013, and China Eastern Airlines, where it fell by 25%.

High oil prices, as well as increased competition from low-cost carriers and each other, have taken a toll. But, as each airline has recently acknowledged, so has China’s massive and growing high-speed rail system.

As Quartz reported last August, the costly and sometimes under-used rail network was shaping up to be a vital part of China’s growth strategy. It doesn’t have the hurdles of the airline industry: Airlines in China struggle to get clearances from the military to expand flight paths, and China’s major airports have earned the title of the most-delayed in the world, where passengers sometimes riot to protest long waits and miserable customer service.

The high-speed rail system, on the other hand, has quickly grown to over 6,000 miles (9,700 km) in five years, and will expand to 19,000 kilometers (11,800 miles) by 2015. It is already transporting some 2 million passengers a day on trains that are rarely delayed, and which go nearly 200 miles an hour, twice as manypassengers as domestic airlines.

If there were no rail network, these passengers wouldn’t all necessarily have taken flights instead, of course. Some might not have traveled at all, or gone by car, bus or slow train. Still, to see how this has hit the airlines, take a look at China Southern’s domestic passenger activity, which peaked in 2011, and on most months hasn’t hit the same highs since, according to the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation:

In 2013, China Southern’s revenues from domestic operations dropped 5.5% to 81.3 billion yuan. At Air China, revenues from domestic flights likewise fell over 5% in 2013, though the number of passengers increased by 7.3%. ”The rapid development of high-speed railway and the evolution of low-cost carriers on the mainland will further intensify competition on domestic routes,” the company said when it announced results March 25.

China Eastern’s chief executive complained about the subsidies the railways get in an interview last year, saying “In China, the government has also invested heavily in high-speed rail—far more than in the airlines in fact—so it’s not a case of nationalized carriers being better off, because they also have many challenges to face.”

It’s a sticky situation: while all of China’s big three airlines are publicly traded, the Chinese government continues to hold controlling stakes in the companies. That means the cannibalization of domestic airline passengers by the railways is a case of the government eating its own profits.

Cutbacks compromise $5b Regional Rail Link

Victoria's biggest public transport project, the $4.8 billion Regional Rail Link, will not truly achieve its aim of untangling the tracks currently shared by Metro and V/Line trains, because of a cost-saving decision made during the final months of the former Brumby government.

Due to open next year, the 45-kilometre Regional Rail Link between Southern Cross Station and west Werribee is the state's biggest rail project since the City Loop was built in the 1970s. It will separate Metro and V/Line trains, giving each operator its own dedicated tracks through Melbourne's west and removing rail bottlenecks that cause delays.

But cuts made to the project plans a few months before Labor lost the 2010 state election have compromised that outcome, leaving metropolitan and regional tracks to intersect at a key junction just north of Sunshine station.

Aerial view of work on Regional Rail Link near Wyndham Vale.

The change in plans means Metro's Sunbury-line trains will continue to cross paths with V/Line's Bendigo and Ballarat-line trains

when the Regional Rail Link opens, leaving intact a pinch point that can create train delays. It had been planned to remove the junction by building a rail-over-rail flyover.

Details of the ''reduction in the originally proposed scope'' of the Regional Rail Link are revealed in documents released to Fairfax Media under freedom-of-information laws. Other planned parts of the project that were cut include removal of three level crossings on the Ballarat line that will form part of the Regional Rail Link between Sunshine and Deer Park; enhancement of the primitive V/Line stations at Deer Park and Ardeer; and building a second pair of tracks between Deer Park and Sunshine stations.

The documents reveal the Regional Rail Link Authority made the cuts ''in order to meet the project objectives and comply with the funding agreement with the Commonwealth''. The federal government is contributing $3.2 billion and the Victorian government $1.6 billion to the project.

Authority spokesman Bob Neilson said work done in 2010 identified that money could be saved by removing several parts of the project that were not essential to achieving its aims.

Mr Neilson said the junction would be the only point of conflict between Metro and V/Line trains when the new line opens, and that the level of train traffic there would be light enough to create a timetable that would prevent it from becoming a regular source of delays for passengers.

But he conceded there was potential for delays at the junction if a train were already running behind time when it got there, and that the scrapped works would have to be completed in future years to deliver increased services to Melton.

''A rail-rail grade separation in Sunshine is not necessary for Regional Rail Link,'' Mr Neilson said. ''However, an increase in services as part of any future project may mean a grade separation is required.''

A rail engineer familiar with the cuts to the project said the decisions made, including not to remove level crossings at Robinsons Road, Derrimut Road and Fitzgerald Road, would add ''well over half a billion dollars'' to the eventual cost of duplicating and electrifying the line to Melton, where the population is forecast to grow by 117,000 in the next 25 years.

Melton station is already used by more than 2000 passengers a day, and V/Line has identified the duplication and electrification of the largely single-track Melton railway line as one of the key works needed beyond this year, proposing in its 2012 strategic operations plan that it should happen by 2018.
Source-the age

Provision of Toilets and Bathrooms for Female Loco Pilots and Asstt.Loco Pilots in Running Rooms

achievement of nrmu

Green MPs call for reopening of train line for commuter rail cars

A light rail motor such as this could be used on the Casino-Murwillumbah rail line. Photo Wikipedia

The NSW Greens have moved a notice of motion in the Upper House calling on the government to reinstate the Casino-Murwillambah line as a light-rail commuter service to meet growing tourism and transport needs in the region.

The Green MPs also fear plans to rip up train lines to build rail trails, which they say can be useful tourist infrastructure which should co-exist, not replace, rail lines.

The motion, introduced by Greens transport spokesperson, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, highlights Labor’s role in closing the line and the Coalition’s broken promises to open the line.

‘I have called on the government to reinstate the Casino to Murwillambah line and provide real public transportation options to the people of the North Coast,’ Dr Faruqi said.

‘It has been 10 years since Labor pulled trains off the tracks and the community on the north coast is still waiting for the train line that the Coalition repeatedly promised them.

‘This rail line should be re-established to make a regular commuter service for locals and tourists.

‘The line does not have to be reinstated to XPT standards, there are other options such as a railcar or DMU which have lower constructions costs and flexibility in matching passenger capacity to demand.

‘The government study on the cost of rehabilitating the line appears to be very problematic, coming out at many times more the cost per kilometre than equivalent line rehabilitations in Victoria.

‘An independent study of the government’s paper is urgently needed.

‘This trend of massive overestimation of rail project costs has not only starved Sydney of public transport, but also regional NSW of much-needed rail lines.

‘I am deeply concerned about proposals to rip up train lines to build rail trails. Rail trails can be useful tourist infrastructure but should co-exist, not replace, rail lines.

‘It would be madness to tear up any rail line or infrastructure, just because the current government lacks the will to utilise them.

‘The government is prepared to spend billions of dollars on the wasteful and unnecessary WestConnex Tollway in Sydney, but has nothing to offer regional NSW.

‘NSW needs effective, efficient rail services to link up our regional communities and create more employment and tourism opportunities,’ she said.

The motion sates that ‘his house notes:

1. That the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line operated for over 100 years and connected Casino and other northern NSW towns with regional centres such as Lismore, Mullumbimby, Byron Bay and Murwillumbah.

2. That 2014 marks ten years since the then Labor minister for transport, Michael Costa, closed the Casino-Murwillumbah Line, leaving the north coast with no regional rail services.

3. That in 2006 shadow transport minister Barry O’Farrell, now premier, committed to reopening the line should the Coalition come into government.

4. That National Party MPs in Ballina, Lismore and Tweed have in the past committed to reinstating the Casino to Murwillumbah rail services.

5. That in April 2013 the O’Farrell government’s transport study over-estimated the cost of reinstating the 130-kilometre Casino to Murwillumbah line at $900 million, or more than $6.5 million per km.

6. That there is significant community concern about the accuracy of these costings.

7. That the Casino to Murwillumbah line is vital transport infrastructure for tourists and community alike.

That this house calls upon the government to: Reinstate the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line, considering options such as railcars.

Ghatkopar railway station to soon to be integrated with metro station

Finally, the Ghatkopar railway station can be integrated with Ghatkopar metro station as the land row between the Central Railway and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is on a verge of getting resolved.

The integration of both the stations will be done by linking them with a skywalk on the western side of Ghatkopar railway station. The first metro rail of Mumbai stretching 11.4 km will connect Versova with Ghatkopar via Andheri railway station.

"After a meeting with the general manager of Central Railway, the land issue is seen to be getting resolved. We will be paying a certain amount to the railway for the construction work," said UPS Madan, metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA. The railway authorities have issued a bill of Rs18 crore that still needs to be paid.

Last month dna had reported how station integration had been delayed due to problems between the development authority and the railway. Around 1,200 square metres of the land has been used by the Mumbai Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL)-- consortium comprising of MMRDA, Reliance Infrastructure and Veolia, to erect the metro station building.

It is only earlier this year, the railway officials realised that the road (land) parallel to the railway on the western side is owned by them. This resulted in Ghatkopar skywalk not being connected with the already prepared metro station. As a result, the commuters would have faced a lot of hardship by walking of the foot overbridge only to climb stairs of the metro station and vice-a-versa.

The MMRDA has now approached their counterparts asking for the premium amount, once the amount is paid, the station integration can be carried out.

On the other hand, the MMOPL authorities are waiting for speed, oscillation and brake test certificate from the Research Design and Standards Organisation. Those test were completed by February 12, after testing the systems for 11 days. The reports are likely to be ready by this week.

Thereafter, commissioner for metro rail safety will initiate their round of safety tests and will submit their report.

More seats for rail commuters in Network Rail plan

New £38bn investment programme will boost capacity and improve punctuality on Britain's trains, Network Rail says
Tens of thousands of rush hour commuters will no longer be forced to stand on packed trains, Network Rail has pledged as it announced plans to increase capacity at peak times.

An extra 170,000 seats are to be provided over the next five years, with the Crossrail and Thameslink projects in London due for completion and hundreds more trains to run each day between major cities in the north.

Further capacity will be squeezed out of the network by lengthening more trains and adjusting timetables, while more than 850 miles (1,350km) of railway is to be electrified, including the Great Western Main Line from Maidenhead to Swansea.

Hundreds of stations will also be upgraded including London Bridge, Manchester Victoria, Birmingham New Street and Glasgow Queen Street.

The improvements are detailed in a new investment plan launched by Network Rail, which operates Britain’s railways, detailing how it will spend £38bn of funding over the next five years.

Under the plan more than 4,350 miles (7,000km) of track will be renewed and 500 level crossings removed, while bosses have been tasked with cutting the cost of running the railway network by 20 per cent.

As part of the funding agreement Network Rail will commit to running 92.5 per cent of services on time – the same target it was set five years ago and has failed to meet.

The Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday that currently only 89.9 per cent of trains are arriving on schedule, with the Office of Rail Regulationlikely to penalise Network Rail for the failure with a £70m fine.

Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, told the Telegraph an unexpected surge in passengers in recent years had caught the operator off guard and caused punctuality to fall due to increased congestion on the network.

“We are a victim of our own success. The railway is growing at a tremendous speed,” he said. “But I think we have got a strong plan for further capacity and increasing reliability.

“This is a golden age for the railway really. After a century of underinvestment and decline we have absolutely turned a corner.”

He added that the recent terrible weather has played a major part in the poor punctuality, and said a key focus would be improving the resilience of key parts of the network to extreme conditions.

Asked whether Network Rail executives would forego their bonuses this year in the wake of poor punctuality and criticism of the authority’s safety record by MPs, Mr Carne said no decision had been taken.

“It is a decision for the remuneration committee,” he said. “It will be important to recognise that over the last few years there have been huge improvements in safety … today we have the safest level crossings in Europe.”

Richard Price, chief executive of the Office of Rail Regulation, said the multi-billion pound investment plan would make a “massive difference” for passengers, and that the regulator would be “scrutinising progress closely”.

Michael Roberts, Director General of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, added: “Today marks the next stage in a long term multi billion investment programme that is transforming the railway for the better, delivering improved services for passengers and businesses”.

Network Rail has confirmed that Devon and Cornwall will be reconnected to the rail network on Friday after two months of work to rebuild the line at Dawlish, which was severely damaged during storms this winter.

The planned opening had been threatened when 20,000 tonnes of cliff-face collapsed in a landslip nearby at Teignmouth on March 4, but this has since been cleared.

Govt Urged to Form SPV for Nilambur-Nanjangud Rail Line

The Nilgiris-Wayanad National Highway and Railway Action Committee (NWNHRAC), which spearheads the efforts to realise the proposed Nilambur-Sulthan Bathery-Nanjangud rail line, has called upon the State government to form a project-specific special purpose vehicle (SPV) to implement the project.

According to the office-bearers of the Nilgiris-Wayanad National Highway and Railway Action Committee, though the state governments of Kerala, Karanataka and Tamil Nadu were directed to pool 50 per cent of the total project cost, only Kerala responded to the call positively.

In such a scenario, the state government should come forward to join hands with the Railways to execute and operate the railway line.

“An SPV on the lines of the Hassan-Mangalore Rail Development Company (HMRDC) Ltd should be formed to brighten the prospects of the project to be included in the next Railway Budget,” they said.

“At present, the Railway Board accords priority to such joint ventures while giving approval to new rail lines,” they added.

The Nilgiris-Wayanad National Highway and Railway Action Committee observed that the proposed Nanjangud-Wayanad-Nilambur rail line project would act as a catalyst for the overall development of the region and it would also function as a connecting link among the major IT cities of Kochi, Hyderbad and Bangalore.

The new rail line would also help increase the supply of essential goods and commodities from neighbouring states, thus resulting in lower prices for consumers, they added.

The first phase of the project, consisting of laying a rail line between Nanjangud and Sulthan Bathery, could be commissioned at an estimated cost of `642 crore.

Out of this, the state governments of Karnataka and Kerala will have to share half of the total cost, i.e. `321 crore.

The State government had set aside an amount of `5 crore in the last budget for the purpose.

The total cost of the project was estimated at `4,266.85 crore. indian express





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