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New York City Considers Articulated Subway Cars 237

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the and-one-train-car-to-bind-them-all dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Many of New York City's subway cars are well past their prime and due for fleet replacement, most strikingly those on the C line, known by their model number, R32, and for the tin-can siding that will continue rolling beneath Eighth Avenue for at least a few more years. Now the NYT reports that transit planners have urged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to consider articulated subway cars for any future fleet upgrades. Articulated cars, already adopted in cities like Berlin, Paris, and Toronto, have no doors between cars, allowing unrestricted flow throughout the length of the train that could increase capacity by 8 percent to 10 percent. Adam Lisberg, the authority's chief spokesman, says that increased capacity could also improve 'dwell time' — the period during which a train is stopped in a station, often because of overcrowding — and allow more trains to run. 'We're one of the largest systems in the world that doesn't do it,' says Richard Barone, the director of transportation programs at the Regional Plan Association. 'Our trains don't function right now to allow people to circulate.' Articulation also has the benefit of making empty trains feel safer. By allowing passengers the ability to move between cars easily and to see passengers throughout the train, the isolation that can sometimes feel dangerous on a late-night subway is less of an issue, simply because the whole train is joined together like one huge car. But not everyone embraces the idea. Elizabeth Kubany who works in the Flatiron district, expressed a fondness for the current configuration, suggesting that the separated cars were more 'intimate' binding passenger to passenger in an increasingly antisocial age. Then she reconsidered. 'You don't really want to be intimate with people on the train.'"
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New York City Considers Articulated Subway Cars

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 21, 2013 @09:29AM (#45187603)

    The doors are there. The transit authority just doesn't allow people to use them because most people are too stupid to use them safely.

    On Septa and Metro North you can move between cars while the train is stopped to facilitate boarding, and on Amtrak you can move between cars at will.

    • by LoRdTAW (99712) on Monday October 21, 2013 @09:44AM (#45187793)

      Back in highschool I had a friend who was one of those kids who was obsessed with the subway. His neighbor was an MTA employee for the subway and let him examine the key for the doors. The lock simply takes a zigzag shaped skeleton key with a square rejection notch cut in the center. He took a thick nail, cut the head off and then put a slit on each end. He then brazed a piece of sheet metal on each end of the key, one side for the key part and the other end for a handle. He bent the key into the shape of the lock using a clay form he pressed into an actual lock and filed out the rejection notch. The bend wasn't even square but rounded as all it needed to do was fit through the key hole. It worked perfectly and he made me one as well, I still have it around somewhere. I used to impress my friends when we wanted to switch cars and I opened the door with my key :) You just had to be sure no MTA employee or cop saw you.

      • by xaxa (988988) on Monday October 21, 2013 @10:04AM (#45188057)

        Is it possible to open the doors in an emergency?

        The Underground trains in London that don't yet have articulated carriages simply have a red danger sign telling people not to use them -- except in an emergency. It's very rare to see someone using them, as the danger is pretty obvious (adjacent carriages can bounce around quite a bit, relative to each other).

        • by jeremyp (130771)

          Some of the trains on the Circle Line are now articulated. I've only been on one, but it was much better than the old way. Of course, that might partly be due to the fact that the stock was brand new. There even seemed to be air con.

          • by RDW (41497)

            On one today, for only the second time. Still had that 'new train' smell. Definitely nicer, though probably even more popular with buskers, pickpockets and street preachers.

      • by malakai (136531)

        Not all are locked. It wasn't illegal to switch cars on the subway until 2005. And then it became a 75 dollar fine.

        The ones that are locked are the newer models which the locks can be controlled by the conductor. Also, only the trains that have extreme turns or spots where there is a very large gap between the cars, get locked.

        The 1/2/3 line weren't locked last time I hit a car with no AC in the summer.

        Also, on the 1 line for south ferry you have to move between cars because only the first 5 reach the platf

    • A big point of articulated cars is that the space between the cars is usable passenger space for standing [wikipedia.org]. The accessibility of the doors is unimportant when it comes to train capacity, and vastly inferior to articulated cars when it comes to loading/emptying times.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The problem with articulated cars is if there is a problem with a single car, the whole train is unusable. You also can't extend or shorten trains to accommodate differing rider numbers.

        Here, it's not unusual to see ten car BART trains at peak hours and only four car trains when there is less demand. It saves on energy and wear and tear.

        • by gurubert (39045) on Monday October 21, 2013 @10:37AM (#45188481) Homepage

          The subway operators in Berlin have decided for these long trains beacuse the manual labour and logistics needed to extend or shorten trains during the day is more expensive than just letting them roll.

        • by xaxa (988988)

          Here, it's not unusual to see ten car BART trains at peak hours and only four car trains when there is less demand. It saves on energy and wear and tear.

          I doubt the effort to shorten the trains would be worthwhile in NYC. Isn't it always going to be busy enough that it's worth running the whole train?

          (It's certainly the case in London. Some of the oldest (1970s) trains have driving cabs in the middle, i.e. are two trains coupled together. It's a long, long time since they ran trains with less than the maximum number of carriages. I'm not sure they ever were -- I can't find a reference.)

        • by war4peace (1628283) on Monday October 21, 2013 @12:13PM (#45189655)

          In Bucharest, most of the subway cars have been replaced with articulated ones. I love them. There's less noise, more space, easier way to access; you don't care where you get up, because you can move inside for the whole length of the train. You can tell someone to meet you in the subway and they can hop in without having to figure out which wagon you're in first. Also, during off-peak hours, if someone in a different wagon faints or has a health issue, you can move across to help them. There's no such thing as overcrowding anymore. There's less noise.

          Wear and tear is a non-issue. It depends more on the materials used rather than time. Shitty materials used on non-articulated cars will wear faster than good materials used on articulated cars.

          As for "if there is a problem with a single car, the whole train is unusable" - this is totally false. They're just as modular; maybe it takes 15 minutes more to detach one wagon, but that rarely, if ever, happens. It's been years since they were introduced and there were exactly 4 malfunctions that required a train to stop between stations, and they were all due to the underside of the cars, not the articulations.

          Extending trains does not exist around here. They are all same length. It's actually helpful because you can wait for it anywhere you want, you don't have to run towards a side because the length is smaller.

        • In Toronto all of the platforms are just over six cars long, so there's really no point in going for a longer train—instead we make the much lower-effort/lower-energy decision to just run trains more or less frequently. (And while the T35A08/Rocket's cars aren't detachable, other articulated trains can be.)
        • by rasmusbr (2186518)

          The modern solution to that is to buy train sets that are half as long as the platforms. That way you can run full length trains during normal hours and half length trains when demand is expected to be low.

    • by n1ywb (555767)
      Funny I see people move between subway cars all the time
    • by steelfood (895457)

      You'll get a ticket if you're caught going between cars. And depending on the train type, they can be locked.

      It's also quite unsafe. The subway is not a smooth ride and the gap is fairly large. If you don't know what to expect when, one misstep and you'll be less a leg or more.

  • Cost is the key (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Monday October 21, 2013 @09:34AM (#45187661)
    If it cost the same it would be a no-brainer ... increased capacity for nothing. The key question is does it cost more, and if so is that the optimal way of increasing capacity for the money? If the same money would allow them to run an extra train each hour then that would be the best option.
    • Re:Cost is the key (Score:5, Interesting)

      by plover (150551) on Monday October 21, 2013 @10:01AM (#45188015) Homepage Journal

      A big impediment to increasing capacity is the spacing required between trains for safety. Trains have to have adequate stopping distances between them, and rely on signals and blocks to prevent one train from running into the back of a stopped train. You can't just drop a few more trains onto the rails and expect them to fit in the gaps.

      They can't simply add more cars to today's trains, because they can have only as many cars as they have platform space. It's possible these fully interconnected articulated cars would allow them to extend the train beyond the ends of the platform, as long as they only open the doors where it's safe, of course. But that would also increase the duration of stops, potentially reducing the number of trains.

      Simply swapping cars for cars with more seats seems like the easiest and quickest approach to increasing capacity. But it's not much of an increase.

      • by pmontra (738736)
        Actually "less seats" increases capacity: you can fit more people in a given space if they stand. Maybe you were hinting about smaller seats or more closely spaced? Anyway, we have these articulated carts in Milan since a few years ago and they are much more comfortable. They can accommodate a little more people because of the space where walls were, but not that much. They're also a time saver because you can walk inside the train to the exit closer to where you have to go when the train stops. Sometimes a
      • by n1ywb (555767)
        Is this a joke? Have you ever been on a NYC subway during rush hour? Standing room only buddy.
      • by rasmusbr (2186518)

        My understanding i that the main problems tend to be:

        1. Modern digital signalling performs significantly worse than old analog signalling. Yes, seriously.
        2. A single train that spends a few seconds too many at each stop can easily disrupt the whole subway line much like a single bad driver on the highway can cause a traffic jam.

    • by xaxa (988988) on Monday October 21, 2013 @10:12AM (#45188167)

      If it cost the same it would be a no-brainer ... increased capacity for nothing. The key question is does it cost more, and if so is that the optimal way of increasing capacity for the money? If the same money would allow them to run an extra train each hour then that would be the best option.

      Articulated trains is probably really cheap compared to the other options, assuming the easy things have been done (like lengthening the train where all the platforms are long enough).

      Anyway, they should last 50 years, so it's a good investment.

      (I've not used the NYC Metro for 15 years, but if it's anything like the overcrowded London Underground they'll be increasing capacity wherever they can. I was told off by a public announcement last week "would the man running down the escalator please be aware that now the upgrade work is completed, trains run every two minutes" [on the Victoria Line].)

    • by plover (150551)

      One other point - this isn't primarily about increasing capacity. It's about replacing cars that have reached the end of their service life, and must be replaced anyway.

      But yeah, they then have to do a bunch of cost benefit analysis. If the cost difference between a regular car and an articulated car is $3 million, and the car is expected to be in service for 50 years, and it costs $20,000/year more to maintain, and it can carry 5% more passengers, but the capacity is only used for six trips per day, and we

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 21, 2013 @09:35AM (#45187669)

    I overheard a 20+ year career subway driver in Toronto talk about why he doesn't like the new trains. On weekends partiers often vomit in subway cars, and the smell used to be isolated to just the affected cars with the old train, but now the vomit rolls up and down the entire length of the train and the driver has to smell it for the entire duration of his/her shift. I can understand this concern and don't have a solution to offer, but personally I love the new trains. They have a subway map with lights showing which stations you've passed by, which one is next, where you're going, which side the door will open on, and all of the announcements seem to be pre recorded or computer generated. I don't have to struggle to understand what the foreign driver is saying. These trains are made by Bombadier, a Canadian company. I've seen these same trains in China (Bombadier). I wonder if NYC will get the same ones.

    • by Ami Ganguli (921)

      I also love the new trains. They feel a lot roomier. Part of that is because they really are roomier, but part of it is the more open design that feels less claustrophobic.

    • by Shatrat (855151)

      I rode on the articulated subway in Berlin this year during a weekend, including early Saturday morning. Lots of partiers, no vomit. Maybe Canadians drink like teenagers? :)

    • by diodeus (96408)

      The cars are 300 feet long. That's a lot of barf. (I live in Toronto and have never experienced this). I like these new trains. They're great!

    • by gravis777 (123605)

      Sounds like the Toronto subway needs a janitorial staff. How hard would it be to have cleaning crews at a few select stations, and when the driver reports an issue, they jump on at a stop and clean the train up while its in motion? Then they just jump out at another station. Give all workers free subway passes on that day (and make sure they know how to read a subway map so they can get home)

    • If everyone in a car gets off at one stop...you probably should not enter unless you suffer from (or, in this case, are blessed by) anosmia.

  • ...then where will the hobos excrete in private?
  • by hypergreatthing (254983) on Monday October 21, 2013 @09:48AM (#45187853)

    isn't the whole point of individual cars so that when one goes bad or needs maintenance, you just disconnect it from the rest and attach something else? I'm sure you can do the same with articulated, but it's probably a lot more of a hassle. That or if you can't and they're all attached for life (like an articulated bus), that would mean any failure along the 8 (I'm assuming it's 8 in nyc) would send the entire train to the maintenance yard.

    No one would want to sit on the articulated section anyways. The suspension between the two and the floor moving near where you're sitting would probably be unnerving to some.

    • Re:hmm (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 21, 2013 @10:16AM (#45188243)
      I have worked on the train lines in Singapore and I can tell you from first hand experience that this is not the case. The articulated train cars are no more hassle to connect or disconnect. Infact its easier during repairs. Also one of my most favorite places on the Singapore MRT car is the place where the two sections join. You can easily lean on the side and not as many people would walk past you when a station come as in the middle of the car. Its also less tiring for some reason. And no, its not just me, I have seen people rushing towards this spot when the train doors open and its apparent that all the seats are full.
    • by swb (14022)

      You would hope that an articulated train would be modular enough that segments/cars could be decoupled to perform maintenance or swap segments/cars as needed.

      It's probably more work than just switching cars in the yard, though, and the segments are probably more specialized so you can't substitute a middle segment for an end/rear car, although I don't know if all existing cars have this interchangeability although visually it looks that way.

    • Re:hmm (Score:4, Informative)

      by xaxa (988988) on Monday October 21, 2013 @10:22AM (#45188315)

      any failure along the 8 (I'm assuming it's 8 in nyc) would send the entire train to the maintenance yard.

      That's going to happen anyway -- where else on a city metro system would you take apart a train?

      But anyway, I don't think that's how trains are maintained any more. The carriages are unlikely to be uncoupled except in very rare circumstances (fire/accident, or infrequent maintenance). This article [railwaygazette.com] shows a small part of a lifting machine that is "able to raise a complete eight-car trainset" for London Underground. This The manufacturer [windhoff.it] has some better pictures, including whole high-speed trains (much longer).

      No one would want to sit on the articulated section anyways. The suspension between the two and the floor moving near where you're sitting would probably be unnerving to some.

      Every articulated train (and tram for that matter) that I've seen has only standing room in the articulated sections. There's usually a semicircular joint where the floor moves -- just don't stand on both sides of it :-)

    • Hong Kong also has articulated subway cars, it's actually quite fascinating to watch the cars ahead or behind you twisting and turning at turns and inclines. Millions of people pack those subway trains, including standing in the articulated spaces (too short an area for any seats), without any problem.

  • More than doors between cars, what NYC needs to bring itself into the modern age is automatic train control and platform doors. It would allow a whole host of benefits, such as less reliance on human drivers (controversial, I know), air conditioned platforms, increased reliability, increased frequency, etc.

    When you come back from Asia or Europe and see the subway systems they have, and see what we have in New York, you actually get embarrassed, and wonder how we're still #1...

    ps. oh, please do all tha
  • by 8127972 (73495) on Monday October 21, 2013 @09:55AM (#45187939)

    ... Which is the articulated train that we use is here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto_Rocket

    It's got more going for it than just being articulated. There are electronic signs that allow people not familiar with the subway system in Toronto to navigate the system better. Plus it's easier for those who have mobility issues.

  • Outdated trains (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Clsid (564627) on Monday October 21, 2013 @10:39AM (#45188525)

    The whole NYC metro system is something I really cannot understand about the US. I haven't visited the whole world but NY city metro is by far the worst I have been, starting with the dirty station that includes God knows how many rats and the old equipment. Hell there are places in Latin America that have better stuff. Sure it has a lot of coverage and works 24/7 but either everybody else is doing something extraordinary or I don't know what's the deal.

    So now seeing this whole 'debate' about whether to use articulated cars is like watching a discussion about the merits of the wheel to improve transportation. They really need to invest heavily into the system, especially in a city like NY where millions depend on the subway as their primary mean of transportation.

    • Re:Outdated trains (Score:4, Informative)

      by Joey Vegetables (686525) on Monday October 21, 2013 @10:56AM (#45188725) Journal
      It's worse than you think. Transit in NYC is by far the best we have in the U.S., with only Chicago, Washington, Boston, LA, and at most a handful of other cities having anything that would be recognizable in the rest of the world as a metro system at all. Most parts of the Cleveland, Ohio area where I live do not have any public transportation at all, and even within city limits many places are served only by a bus running once every hour during the day, and not at all at night or weekends. For people who can afford to drive, transportation in the U.S. is great, but for anyone else, it sucks universes through nanotubes.
    • The Onion ran a story once about the NYC subway system upgrading the rolling stock to use octagonal wheels, instead of the square wheels, and how much quieter and smooth the ride would be.

      That's about right... I still have fond memories of the 7 line though.
    • by mlts (1038732) *

      The sad thing is the NYC metro system is the best in the US. Where I live, you -can- try to bike it places [1], or perhaps find a bus line that goes near your destination, but your commute time will be 2-3 hours for a distance that should be 15-30 minutes at most.

      Here in the US, the best bet for mass transportation are autopiloted cars, just due to the distance, and the unwillingness of cities to work on mass transportation as opposed to a new football stadium every 10 years or so.

      [1]: Austin is fairly bi

    • by Miseph (979059)

      Keep in mind that the NYC subway is also one of the oldest in the world: they had very few predecessors to learn from and far more limited technology to work with when it was designed and constructed. Occasional retrofits are possible, and several have been made, but any sort of substantive upgrade is hard to implement when you're working on a finished, active subterranean system that runs, as you not, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.

      • You're doing it wrong!
          - London

        • by BLToday (1777712)

          I've been to London, it ain't better than NYC. The gaps between the car and station are gigantic, hence "mind the gap" warnings. The escalators are super speedy and steep, and when it rains very slick. Try going from Heathrow with some luggage and you start notice that London Underground is a death trap.

          Paris' subway is better but Paris is small that it probably only takes about 20 minutes for a train to make a round-trip through it's route. Relatively clean compare to London and NYC. Walkways still sm

          • by xaxa (988988)

            I've been to London, it ain't better than NYC. The gaps between the car and station are gigantic, hence "mind the gap" warnings.

            Yep, that's one of those "oldest in the world" problems that would be incredibly expensive to fix (the other is the narrow tunnels). Also that some platforms are used by trains with a different height -- I don't know if they'll ever fix that either.

            The escalators are super speedy and steep, and when it rains very slick. Try going from Heathrow with some luggage and you start notice that London Underground is a death trap.

            I don't find this to be a problem. Maybe because I rarely wear leather soled shoes? The escalators are the normal speed for Europe -- I find ones in the US to be slow.

            When did you last use London Underground? I think it's generally clean -- they employ a lot

          • by dj245 (732906)

            I've been to London, it ain't better than NYC. The gaps between the car and station are gigantic, hence "mind the gap" warnings. The escalators are super speedy and steep, and when it rains very slick. Try going from Heathrow with some luggage and you start notice that London Underground is a death trap.

            Paris' subway is better but Paris is small that it probably only takes about 20 minutes for a train to make a round-trip through it's route. Relatively clean compare to London and NYC. Walkways still smell like urine though and it lacks escalators in many places. You're very likely to get pick-pocketed and with the articulated subway cars make it easier for them to escape from you if you notice.

            Tokyo's metro system is amazing. Trains are on time, stations and cars are clean, but the system is confusing as NYC.

            I haven't try Beijing's or Shanghai metro system yet.

            The Tokyo system is very easy. Ticketing and payment are very straightforward. You can buy a 1-way ticket or have a declining balance card and just swipe, swipe, swipe. If you stick to JR trains (which is easily possible), routing is easy. The only points of confusion I experienced were with signs lacking English text.

            Zurich's system was a nightmare for me. There are a couple dozen different kind of tickets and figuring out which one is needed was less than intuitive. Many train stations did not ha

        • by cornjones (33009)

          I'll take the NYC subway over the London underground any day. Besides being air conditioned, the subway runs 24 hours a day. None of this last train around midnight scramble for people that don't live right in zone 1.

      • by dave420 (699308)
        The double-running means it's easier to keep the tracks operational and work on the system at the same time. London doesn't have this luxury, as it's older and mostly single-running. And London's system is still far better :) Where is your god now??
    • Re:Outdated trains (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CaptainLard (1902452) on Monday October 21, 2013 @11:20AM (#45188989)
      "The deal" is that its the most extensive public transportation system in the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ny_subway) and was built early in the 20th century. As it serves over 5 million riders a day you can't just shut it down and rebuild the whole thing for less than $50 billion and another $100 billion in economic impact. Especially considering it functions well for most people. Of course its dirty because it's old and serves one of the most densely populated regions on the planet. I'm sure you can find many cleaner systems throughout the world but not many (outside asia maybe) are as effective. Articulated cars seem like a good non disruptive improvement that's good for everyone except a few hipsters that will miss the nostalgia of the trains they've been riding since they moved to williamsburg 8 months ago.
      • by Alioth (221270)

        But you can make it clean, and make the stations not depressingly grey and dull which just goes to make them seem even dirtier than they actually are. The London Underground is even older but for the most part, the stations are clean, most of them are decorated nicely, and most of them are bright.

        • As many have said, it's an issue of money. Based on some brief research, a monthly pass for the London underground costs £213.60, or $344. A monthly pass on the NYC subway costs $112. The residents of my city would rather have an additional $232 in their pocket each month instead of a newly redecorated subway system.

      • by steelfood (895457)

        It's also one of the few systems in the world that run 24/7. Almost every other system shuts down after a certain time each day for maintenance, cleaning, repairs, etc. This includes pretty much every system in Asia. The NYCTA has no such luxury.

        The stations also weren't built to handle this kind of density. Early on, subway riding was considered a luxury, and the expectation was only the upper-middle class and above would really use it. So stations were built relatively small. In fact, they started off as

      • by greggman (102198)

        London's is older than NYCs (built in the mid 19th century) and looks clean and new and is of a comparable size and ridership so it's certainly possible for a large subway system to get overhauled. They're doing a major renewal effort right now and have a great system to keep people informed which lines have issues and how to work around them. They have websites to check and very clear P.A. systems announcing the issues in all stations. Usually they appear to only close portions of lines on weekends with de

    • There's a rumor that they used to have a mercury rectifier running one of the lifts, up until the 2000s. It worked, so no-one ever raised the subject of replacing it until several decades after it should have been considered obsolete.

      I don't know how much truth there is to the rumor, though.

  • by Princeofcups (150855) <john@princeofcups.com> on Monday October 21, 2013 @11:02AM (#45188831) Homepage

    This is all bullshit. The one reason to articulated bogies, which is all we're talking about, is that you can cram more seats on each car, which means saving money. Please ignore the weird PR spin.

    • by MrNemesis (587188)

      If it's anything like the articulated bogies they're introducing on the tube/London Underground, there'll be even less seats. The Metropolitan line - one of the lines that extends out the furthest into the commuter belt - used to run the venerable A Stock which had 448 seats per train, but they've been replaced with the S8 stock which have only 306 seats.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Underground_S7_and_S8_Stock [wikipedia.org]

      But great news for people who like to stand for an hour on their morning commute into the Ci

    • by dj245 (732906)

      This is all bullshit. The one reason to articulated bogies, which is all we're talking about, is that you can cram more seats on each car, which means saving money. Please ignore the weird PR spin.

      This is true for planes and maybe long-distance trains but not subways. On a busy subway line, you actually want fewer seats because the cars are packed during rush hour. Tokyo even has a few (very new) trainsets with folding jump seats. Standing for 20 minutes isn't going to kill you.

  • ... panhandlers to cover more territory.

  • No more dramatic subway car to subway car chases with that harrowing split second to open each door; not knowing if it'll be locked or if the international assassin will catch up to our hero before he gets through. No more gratuitous, tortured expressions as Julia Roberts struggles with the unfamilar latches. A subway chase through articulated joints will be like watching 2 guys running through an alley. Boring!

    • by tverbeek (457094)
      When has Hollywood ever placed realism above drama? Their characters still use payphones instead of mobiles.
  • by tverbeek (457094) on Monday October 21, 2013 @12:06PM (#45189569) Homepage
    Do you mean New York subway trains will be able to talk clearly and understandably?
  • Yes, because being more intimate with fellow passengers on a MTA train in NYC is high on my list of "wants"...

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