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Lord Elis-Thomas: I hope that the noble Lord is considering carefully what he is saying. He quite rightly said that I am inordinately devoted to national unity. I am also inordinately devoted to ensuring that the working practices of the assembly will ensure that all members are seen as equal. It is not a two tier membership; it is merely election for an area by a different form of franchise as part of a PR system.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: I think the noble Lord will have to recognise that the areas to which members are elected differ. There is a considerable difference between the parliamentary constituency, and the electoral region. There will not be the close attachment between the electoral regional member and his area that exists between the constituency member and his area as he is clearly identified with the constituency he serves.
I am grateful for this debate. I also paid attention to what my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith said. It is indeed possible that if one encourages regionalism too much, it may seek its own form of devolution. We certainly do not want to handicap the assembly in Wales by regional pressures of that kind. We may well return to this subject of regional committees because in spite of the view expressed that it is a matter best left to the assembly, I am sure in my mind that if we as a Parliament were able to provide a solution to this problem, we would do ourselves, the assembly, the people of Wales and the Government a service.
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: I have felt all along an interloper in these debates. I was encouraged by my noble friend Lord Elis-Thomas who said that I was fortuitously qualified. I have listened to this debate with great admiration and benefit. It is obviously closely balanced. As the matter is to be further considered, I make a suggestion that may constitute a way of reconciling the various differences, and that is to do what we have done as regards the standing orders. In other words, the regions, like the standing orders, would be extraneously laid down, but with power to the assembly to alter them at its discretion when it comes to consider them more closely. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, and the Minister might, if the matter is left at large, consider that possibility.
Lord Davies of Coity: I am slightly concerned in relation to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and reinforced by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, regarding the question of establishing advisory committees in regions, which might produce a regionalism which furthers devolution in the regions. My understanding is that this clause would ensure that a regional advisory structure exists to prevent aggravation and ensure that people in the regions have a voice and that their interests are represented. The structure itself will not provide a forum for a greater degree of devolution. What will provide that greater degree of devolution, if the matter arises, is not having representation by an advisory region.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am sure that noble Lords are grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, for his suggestion. I hope the Government will consider the matter. I certainly take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Hothfield rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider as a priority in the trunk road programme the completion of the conversion to a dual carriageway of the A.66 between Penrith and Scotch Corner.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, my Question seeks to find out whether the outcome of the Government's current Roads Review will fully reflect the importance of the A.66 trans-Pennine route and its existing unsatisfactory condition. At present, the only part of that route which is included in the programme is the Temple Sowerby bypass, which is marked with a nasty little star, meaning, "schemes likely to be put on hold".
The A.66 is well known to long distance travellers as a key cross-country road, linking north-west and north-east England. It also offers the most direct route from western Scotland and Northern Ireland to eastern England and mainland Europe via the North Sea ports. The road attracts traffic flows averaging 12,000 vehicles a day throughout the year, rising to 17,000 in the summer holiday season. There is a highly dangerous mix of traffic on the road, from farm tractors on the one hand to trans-continental heavy commercial vehicles on the other. The 34 per cent. proportion of heavy commercial vehicles is greater than on the M.62, and two and a half times that on the A.69.
The 80 km long section of the road between the M.6 at Penrith in Cumbria and the A.1 at Scotch Corner in North Yorkshire has over the past 30 years been partially upgraded to dual carriageway standard through a number of isolated schemes. At present, approximately half of the road has been upgraded, but in such a way that there are currently 11 changes of standard between dual and single carriageway. The undulating and twisting alignment and sub-standard junctions of the single carriageway are little changed from the days before motor vehicles started to use the road. The mixture of dual and single carriageway leads to racing, bunching, rash overtaking, confusion and, inevitably, accidents.
The Roads Review consultation document has set out five assessment criteria--integration; accessibility; safety; economy; and environmental impact. The trans-Pennine A.66 more than adequately fulfils these criteria, as I shall attempt to show.
I think everyone would agree that in the foreseeable future, roads will continue to have a role to play in an integrated transport strategy--none more so than rural roads such as the A.66, moving freight on routes where there is no practical alternative. However, the A.66 also contributes to an integrated strategy in serving a number of sea and air ports. Sea ports are situated at the terminal points of the road at both east and west coasts. Teesport and Workington both have general cargo and bulk handling facilities, with Teesport having the additional capacity to serve the chemical industry. Teesside airport is also developing its freight handling potential.
The trans-Pennine section of the road has increased international importance, forming a crucial link in the route between west coast ports for Ireland (surely set to become busier) and the major east coast ports, Channel ports, and the Channel Tunnel.
The A.66 clearly has a major role in promoting accessibility. It gives access for the peripheral areas of north-west England, Scotland and Ireland to east coast ports and hence European markets. At a more regional level, at its west end, it serves as the principal access for a population of 130,000 in west Cumbria, an unemployment blackspot, where over 5,000 are currently seeking employment. In the east, industrialists on Teesside regard the route as an essential part of their hinterland. The route provides readily available access across the Pennines, particularly now that winter reliability has been improved with the completion of dualling through the upland area.
On safety grounds, we have a very strong case too. The road's accident record shows a stark contrast between single and dual carriageway. During the nine-year period 1989 to 1997, 63 people were killed; 59 of those were killed on single carriageway, and remember the lengths of single and dual carriageway are roughly equal. Altogether, out of 1,204 casualties, 944 were on single carriageway. The effect of dualling was dramatically demonstrated after completion of the 6 km Stainmore to Banksgate improvement in 1994. During the three years prior to construction, there had been 85 casualties, including seven fatalities. During the three years since completion, four people have incurred minor injuries on the new dual carriageways.
On economic grounds, the A.66 contributes at every level. The composition of its traffic reflects that this road is foremost a trade route, carrying up to 4,000 heavy goods vehicles each day. The Department of Transport's own Trans-Pennine Study (Strategy Report 1992), highlighted large flows of very long distance, strategic traffic of which a high proportion was commercial. The average trip length, 254 kilometres, was far greater than any other of the eight trans-Pennine trunk roads studied. It was nearly double the next longest, 137 kilometres, on the M.62. This average trip length is undoubtedly boosted by international trips such as those undertaken by lorries crossing the "landbridge" between such ports as Stranraer and Hull.
However, the road contributes equally to the regional economy. In 1996, the northern region of the CBI said in its report Improving Regional Competitiveness that the A.66 gave northern business the greatest cause for concern. It stated:
A further illustration of economic benefit comes from the Road Haulage Association, which has calculated that its members can save some 25 kilometres per journey by using the A.66 in preference to the M.62.
The final criterion of the Roads Review, environmental impact, is another strong one for the A.66. For the majority of the route, upgrading can be achieved by on-line widening. That keeps to a minimum the use of agricultural land. Throughout the route there is very little roadside development to require diversions from existing alignment.
Comments by local branches of the Council for the Protection of Rural England indicate the acceptance by environmental interest groups of improvements to the A.66. In North Yorkshire, the county branch offered spontaneous support for dualling on safety grounds. In commenting on proposals for Temple Sowerby, the Friends of the Lake District have accepted the need for a bypass. On a different tack, my sister-in-law, a noted roads protester, has given this scheme her blessing. The Minister should be encouraged by that. I certainly am.
That covers the extremely strong case based on the criteria. I should now like to spend a moment on the Temple Sowerby bypass. Temple Sowerby and Kirkby Thore are the only two villages through which the A.66 runs. The Temple Sowerby bypass was first planned in the 1960s, and has been championed by the local doctor, Gavin Young. It has progressed to the stage of having a preferred route announced, which has been selected to avoid an SSSI. The existing road runs alongside the notable village green and bisects a community which has been described as the Queen of Westmorland villages. The Church, the school, a pub and most houses are on one side; the village shop, garage, hotel, doctors' surgery and other houses are on the other side. The village has experienced more than its share of accidents, including in recent years a collision between two heavy goods vehicles, in which one driver was killed. On another occasion a young boy resident was knocked from his bicycle by an articulated lorry and so severely injured that he will require lifelong medical care. By a quirk of fate, that boy was Dr. Gavin Young's son. Can your Lordships imagine what a fillip it would be for this family if the Minister were able to give some indication that this scheme, which has been on the drawing board for thirty years, is actually to be built?
There is immense support for A.66 improvements, both locally and from further afield. Both Tony Blair and William Hague are supporters. The European Transport Commissioner, Neil Kinnock, visited the road and spoke of it as,
I thank the other speakers tonight and the Minister for listening. If nothing is done, deaths will continue. This road has over double the fatality rate for rural trunk roads nationally. We are only half-way through 1998, but already a further eight people have been killed in five separate crashes, all on single carriageway.
Will the Minister now accept that there is a strong case, based on the criteria, that the completion of dualling of this route, and in particular of the Temple Sowerby bypass, should be programmed as a priority? Previous governments have nibbled at it. What is now required is a full mouthful.
Lord Glenamara: My Lords, I intervene briefly to support the noble Lord, Lord Hothfield. If I may say so without embarrassing him, I think he put the case better than I have heard it put by anyone in the last 40 years--and I have heard it put many times.
I intervene because I was born, and lived my early life, in the village of Warcop, which is a quarter of a mile from this road. That village was the only omission from the speech of the noble Lord. There is in the village of Warcop a very large Army training camp. The troop accommodation and headquarters are on one side of the A.66 and the training facilities are on the hills on the other side. This is bound to be a considerable complication to the traffic on that part of the A.66.
When I was a boy, I spent many hours sitting by this road taking motor car numbers. Why I took them I cannot imagine--there were very few cars in those days--but I filled many exercise books with them. Nowadays it is almost impossible to walk across the road. One takes one's life in one's hands if one tries to do so.
One of the most ancient horse fairs in the country was held on this road. I remember well that the gypsies used to gallop their horses up and down the road all day long. Nowadays one cannot walk across the road because of the traffic.
This is one of the ancient routes in Britain from the north-east to the north-west. It has been a route for 2,000 years, the road having been built upon a Roman road. The medieval kings passed along the road many times--Edward I more often than anyone else, I believe.
As the noble Lord, Lord Hothfield, said, the road links up the great industrial complex of Tyne, Wear and Tees in the east with West Cumberland in the west. As the noble Lord also said, it is also a bridge road between ports such as Stranraer in the west and Teesport in the east. There are two routes across the Pennines from the north-east to the north-west. The A.66 is one and the A.69 the other. I travel on the A.69 every week. Neither road has double carriageway for the whole length; both have many miles of single carriageway. It is dreadful to travel along those roads and be stuck behind a cluster of heavy goods vehicles. Twelve thousand vehicles a day use these roads--4,000 of them heavy goods vehicles--17,000 in the summer months.
If these two roads were in the south-east of England, they would have been made double carriageway long ago. They are up there below the Scottish Border and I do not believe that London cares much about them. Temple Sowerby is a case in point, about which I feel so angry. It is one of the most beautiful villages I know. It has many delightful houses built of red sandstone. The villagers have to go backwards and forwards across the A.66, dodging the heavy goods vehicles, to go about ordinary village business, to the church, the pub, the doctor's surgery. This is scandal which cannot be allowed to continue.
I saw the Minister come into the Chamber with the brief under her arm and I felt a great dread that it would be the same old brief that we have heard over and over again under Labour and Tory Governments. I hope that it is not. The noble Baroness is one of our most sympathetic Ministers; she listens carefully and always tries to help. I urge her to follow the advice given to Macbeth:
Throw the brief away. Tell us that you are going to build a bypass at Temple Sowerby and a double carriageway. If you do that, you will make a name for yourself for ever more. Please do not read out the old stuff that we have heard so often. I have great pleasure in supporting the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Hothfield, that this road should have double carriageway for its whole length and that Temple Sowerby should have its bypass.
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I am pleased to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Hothfield, on raising this important matter. Unfortunately, he has already said all that could and should be said, with admirable brevity and clarity. I detected one omission, but the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, spotted it and mentioned the village of Warcop, so most of the ground has been cut from under me. I shall try not to be tediously repetitious, but there are one or two points to make which will add a little colour to the subject under discussion.
Perhaps a Bishop of Carlisle ought to declare an interest in the A.66. It is, after all, the ancient route to the metropolitan see city of York. One of my predecessors, Bishop Percy, who was appointed in 1828 and stayed there until 1859, was a notable horseman. He used to declare his favourite pursuit as being to drive himself to London in a carriage and four to attend your Lordships' House. His route would certainly have lain across what we now call the A.66 to what was then probably called the Great North Road.
Those noble Lords who know Cumbria, and indeed north Lancashire, will know that the routes from west to east, north of the M.62, are at best inadequate and at worst very dangerous, given the volume of traffic. I shall be returning to Cumbria tomorrow morning and in the late afternoon I shall be going to the village of Beckermet at the gates of Calder Hall--better known as Sellafield--several miles from the western end of the A.66. From that village it takes around one hour and
That is important not just for commercial purposes, as the noble Lord, Lord Hothfield, underlined, but it is important also to ordinary travellers--if I may call them that. Successive attempts to establish a viable airport at Carlisle failed and the nearest airport of any kind is that at Teesside. If one wants to return from London reasonably late in the evening after attending your Lordships' House, the only way to do so is to go on the east coast main line to Darlington and then there is a long drive across the A.66. In a very real sense therefore it is a lifeline not just to the communities on or near the A.66 but to a great deal of central Cumbria.
Too many of our small and remote communities in and around the Lakes are already suffering from the economic pressures experienced by small and medium-sized farmers. That increases the desirability for an upsurge in the tourism industry. There is already a holiday village oasis just off the A.66 to the east of Penrith, which now has a regular residential population of 3,000 people a day. A major new tourist centre is being built just to the west of the M.6 by the turn to Ullswater in order to draw tourists into the eastern part of the Lake District. That again will add to the volume of traffic on this road.
The fact that it is a lifeline to industry has already been mentioned. We are talking about high quality stainless steel railway lines manufactured in Workington and exported all around the world and chemicals from Allbright and Wilson at Whitehaven that need the Teesport facilities because they are a substantial part of our urban fringe in Cumbria--more than one-third of the population in the county lives on the west coast.
I want to underline the fact also that it is a lifeline in an important literal and slightly macabre sense. The noble Lord, Lord Hothfield, reminded the House of the number of fatalities that occur on a single carriageway part of the A.66. I can perhaps add a little detail to the mention by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, of Warcop. There will be a steady stream of military convoys up the A.1 and across the A.66 all through the summer--regular and Territorial Army and Army cadets. As we speak, though the gypsies will not be racing their horses on the A.66, there will be an extraordinary Steptoe-like convoy moving across that road in both directions for the Appleby Fair which is taking place this week and next. As noble Lords can imagine, on the "un-dualled" part of the A.66 it is a horrendous and dangerous prospect.
Lord Jopling: My Lords, I am extremely glad to be able to congratulate, as others have, my noble friend Lord Hothfield on introducing this debate. I endorse all that he said so admirably and eloquently.
For 35 years I was, and continue to be, a regular user of the A.66 between my home, which is south of Scotch Corner, and my old constituency in the historic county of Westmorland and the stretch of the A.66 from Stainmore Summit to a mile or so outside of Penrith--also my old constituency. This evening I should like to add a few comments to what my noble friend Lord Hothfield and others have said.
First, having been a regular user of this road for many years, I have seen some of the most horrible accidents on the road and observed countless near misses. I cannot over-stress to the Minister the danger of this road and its casualty rate. It is something which ought to make us all feel ashamed. The road really must take priority.
Something which occurs to me is that a road with intermittent stretches of dual carriageway, as the A.66 has now, is inherently extremely dangerous, especially when there are so many slow-moving vehicles on it. It provides for commercial vehicles all the year round, and in the summer season slow-moving cars tow caravans, and there are straw lorries when the straw is taken from the eastern counties over to the western counties. Again, there are also the military vehicles to which the right reverend Prelate referred.
On many occasions I have seen and been in slow-moving traffic on that road. One then comes to a short stretch of dual carriageway when everyone makes a rush to overtake the slow-moving lead vehicles. On the short stretch near Greta Bridge, on many occasions I have seen slow-moving traffic, impossible to overtake, approach that short stretch of dual carriageway. Everyone makes a dash to overtake and some find that they cannot make it before the end. I have seen them doing lunatic things in order to overtake before the further stretch of single carriageway arises opposite Barnard Castle. Those stretches of intermittent dual carriageway are inherently extremely dangerous.
My next point is that, in making plans over the next few years for the A.66, I hope that the Government will not allow themselves to be bullied by the Treasury into some of their typically blinkered and brainless candle-end compromises, spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar. For example, in the late 1960s a stretch of the road to the west of Appleby, at Crackenthorpe, was bypassed. There was a great ballyhoo about bypassing Crackenthorpe, which had a rather nasty narrow and twisty bit. What happened was that, owing to the ludicrous cheeseparing, that bypass was constructed in such a way that nearly all the stretch of road had double white lines. It seems to me to be absolutely absurd to spend all that money building a new road and then to build it so that people are not able to overtake.
In a specific sense I want to draw attention to the need for a bypass at Temple Sowerby. I believe my noble friend Lord Hothfield said that it has been ongoing for 30 years. I can first remember making public pronouncements about the need for a bypass at Temple Sowerby 35 years ago. At that time the whole thing was bedevilled because people could not decide on which side of the village the bypass should be built.
Finally, I shall make a few general remarks. All governments have been guilty of ignoring the need for proper east-west communications north of the Yorkshire and Lancashire industrial belt. West Cumberland particularly is crying out for better communications. Barrow--that poor city which has been maimed by the end of the cold war and the collapse of the demand for nuclear submarines and weapons of war--is scandalously ignored by the lack of improvements to the A.590 road. At one point that road goes through a farmyard. The construction of the High and Low Newton bypass is essential.
Likewise, the most direct road link from the north-east of England to Lancashire and the Midlands, and Barrow in particular, is to take the A.66 as far as Brough and then to move over to the M.6 motorway at Tebay via Kirkby Stephen. There is an urgent need for a bypass because lorries clog up that beautiful old market town in the most appalling way. The Kirkby Stephen bypass has been put off, although it was quite recently very much at the head of the priorities of road building in Cumbria. This is all linked in with the need to improve the A.66.
Lord Henderson of Brompton: My Lords, so far no noble Lord has mentioned the fact that we have the great good fortune of having the Minister for roads to answer our debate. It is seldom that we have such a privilege and we are all doing our best to make what we say suitable for her ears. I think she will throw away her brief, as the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, told her to.
I too wish to say how admirable was the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hothfield. It was beautifully constructed and contained all the arguments, as the right reverend Prelate said, so it is very difficult to think of anything else to say. So far everyone has managed to add to what the noble Lord said and the case for the dualling of the carriageway of the A.66 is absolutely beyond argument. I hope that that will penetrate the mind of the noble Baroness the Minister for roads.
I also wish to talk about Warcop. I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, mentioned Warcop as he is its most distinguished ornament. Warcop is an absolute paradigm of what not to do. I am talking about the road, not the village. The village is entirely charming but the road is quite disgusting. Can one possibly imagine a sillier thing than to build a magnificent new bypass at Brough and a magnificent bypass at Appleby and to ignore the few miles in between? That is not just criminal folly; it ought to be visited with disdain and disgust. It has killed so many people.
Can you imagine the ordinary traffic, which, as we have heard, is so vital, so variable, from these huge lorries down to farm carts? We have been told that this season, the Appleby Fair season, gypsies are travelling
The mish-mash of this kind of road is quite lethal, as has been said by other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Jopling. Something must be done to remedy these disasters from the past. The two miles or so between the Brough bypass and the Appleby bypass should not have been left. They must have been designed by two people with totally different thoughts, one building the Appleby bypass and the other building the Brough bypass, and nobody thought of linking the two--at very minimal cost. That is the kind of thing that has gone on all along this vital road, causing great loss of life. That must be impressed upon the Minister as one of the reasons why we are insisting on the remedying of this dire situation.
I remember very well the campaign of a doctor from Temple Sowerby and the tragedy which followed soon after his campaign had been shelved. His own son suffered a horrible accident as a result of a collision when he was on a bicycle and met a heavy lorry. That has engraved itself on my mind. I am sure that all other people who know the area will believe that this was a terrible sacrifice that had to be made through the impotence or lack of push on the part of the Minister for Transport. We hope for better from our Front Bench spokesman today than the miserable answers that we have received on numerous occasions in the past.
Local people know well how to avoid this important highway. They know the back ways to avoid the murderous traffic. I am quite sure the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle, when he is coming our way, avoids the main road by going the back way, which he can do for many a mile. I am sure that is to his great relief. In a similar way those who live near Brough can go by back ways, not just to Appleby but to Penrith. Indeed, there is a very good back way all the way to Carlisle.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I know I speak for all the other participants in the debate thus far--and, indeed, for all Cumbrians--in thanking my noble friend Lord Hothfield for tabling the Question we are now debating. I, like every other speaker, am a Cumbrian. I would point out to the noble Baroness that we have not got all the Cumbrians in your Lordships' House speaking today. There are more that we can reel out on another occasion, and a number of them will be behind her.
I know this road very well because it has played a part in my life from my birth. We lived at one end near Penrith and my grandmother lived at the other end not far from Barnard Castle. I have known it for the past 46 years. During that time I have crashed a car on it,
When I had the privilege of being a Member of the European Parliament for Cumbria and Lancashire, North, I raised in the European Parliament the question of this road. What I said then, and what I still believe now, is that it should be part of the trans-European road network. It is, as has been described by a number of noble Lords in the debate, an important link across country, linking Scotland, Ireland and parts of West Cumbria to the east coast of Britain. I should particularly like to underscore the points made by my noble friend Lord Jopling about the inadequacy of the links between the main roads in Cumbria and the west and the Furness areas.
In the context of the trans-European road network, I believe that the road is complementary to and not an alternative to the A.69, which was given a TERN allocation because it was pointed out that the flows of traffic at its east end between Hexham and Newcastle were greater than those on the A.66. That is hardly surprising because people around Hexham commute into Newcastle, which can hardly be described as part of a wider European-wide traffic flow.
As has already been mentioned, it has a number of unusual characteristics, the first of which perhaps is the fact that it has a high proportion of heavy vehicles. Around 34 per cent. of all the vehicles travelling along it are heavy vehicles. That is higher than for the M.62. Perhaps equally interesting, given its length, is the fact that the traffic flow along the length of the road is relatively constant. It is true that it is marginally higher in the middle section, between Brough and Bowes. At Brough there are links south through Kirkby Stephen and down to the M.6 and Kendall; and from Bowes, where there are links north to Barnard Castle and Bishop Auckland.
I shall just go through the names of the places on that road. They are important places that resonate in the north of England but are not known widely. They are not centres of population. They are Penrith, Temple Sowerby, Kirkby Thore, Appleby, Warcop, Brough, Stainmore, Bowes Moor, Greta Bridge and Scotch Corner. These communities will not generate much traffic going on and off this important national road.
I fear, because it is inevitably the way, that the noble Baroness will feel that she cannot follow the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. There was a time, I dare say, when no member of the party opposite would have dared not to follow the advice of the noble Lord. I hope it is a case of plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, but one never knows. But what the Minister can
I dare say that the noble Baroness may be tempted to say that it will be expensive and that resources are tight. I merely remind your Lordships that in the Statement this afternoon another £140 million of public money was found for changes to the proposals for the Channel Tunnel link. It was said earlier in the debate that the Government seem to be much keener on spending money nearer London than they do in the north of England.
The noble Baroness may be tempted to say to me and to my noble friends Lord Hothfield and Lord Jopling, but not, needless to say, to the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, or the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, "Well, when you were in government you did not build these roads". I think that the right reverend Prelate would agree with me that a sinner saved causes much more rejoicing than the just man going into the Kingdom of Heaven. And, of course, she did not always agree with everything that the previous administration did. So I do not think that is a good argument to advance against us.
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