MassDOT Rail: Springfield Hub (East-West, NNERI, Berkshires, CT-Valley-VT-Quebec)

Stlin

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Springfield should be a connection point for two routes to Canada. Boston-Toronto, which could hit a lot of other medium to large cities on the way. buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Schenectady, Albany, Pittsfield, Worcester, Framingham. The other would be a secondary NYC to Montreal route through Connecticut and Vermont. I think it makes a lot more sense for a Boston-Montreal route to go the more direct route from Boston to Montreal through Manchester and Concord. Perhaps it is crazy to think NH would support it. It would probably be a lot faster but maybe more expensive and environmentally complicated.

Either way building out those lines would give Boston a direct route to Canada by rail to Toronto and two potential connections by rail to get to Montreal in Springfield and Albany, both of which would be way better time wise than the current connection in NYC.
Are you pitching this as a corridor type service, with multiple dailies, or as a single daily, ala Lake Shore Limited / Adirondack? The communities out there are small enough that I don't think you can justify more than a single daily. Further, from Albany to Toronto, you'd be duplicating both the Empire Service and the Maple Leaf, from Buffalo to Boston the Lake Shore Limited. Basically... I see Albany as a much more viable connection point. I don't see a market for a one seat ride to Boston, justifying a NY/Boston split in Albany like the LSL does, nor do I know if Maple Leaf/ LSL timings work to make connections feasible. That said, I do think EW rail should have BOS-Albany as a goal, instead of Pittsfield.

Either way, Boston to Toronto is a travel market I'm not convinced is popular enough to justify building out a rail line to support, even with the intermediate communities. Even in a precovid air travel world, Boston and Toronto was never a high demand route, with ~12 daily flights on 50/76 seat Q400s and CRJs, operated by Delta Connection, AC Jazz, and Encore, with maybe an occasional mainline A320 for summer. in 2019, it did 460k passengers total accounting for both directions, which means about 230k out of Boston. The closest comparable by passenger count I could find in DOT datasets is Pittsburg.
 
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donkeybutlers

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Are you pitching this as a corridor type service, with multiple dailies, or as a single daily, ala Lake Shore Limited / Adirondack? The communities out there are small enough that I don't think you can justify more than a single daily. Either way, Boston to Toronto is a travel market I'm not convinced is popular enough to justify building out a rail line to support, even with the intermediate communities. Even in a precovid air travel world, Boston and Toronto was never a high demand route, with ~12 daily flights on 50/76 seat Q400s and CRJs, operated by Delta Connection, AC Jazz, and Encore, with maybe an occasional mainline A320 for summer. in 2019, it did 460k passengers total accounting for both directions, which means about 230k out of Boston. The closest comparable by passenger count I could find in DOT datasets is Pittsburg. It's nothing compared to what airlines run up and down the NEC, even competing with Acela, with DC accounting for 1.5 million passengers each way.
I don't think that needs to be the primary driver of service it is just the type of connection this could make possible. 1 or two through trips a day in each direction timed with local services say Boston-Springfield and Albany, A Boston to Berkshires express in the summer, in the Capital region of NY and between Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, and in Ontario. Hitting smaller cities along the way would make partial trips appealing by the main train too and pick up passengers along the way but of course would have to be balanced with speediness.

A good service could also very well drive demand.
 

Stlin

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I don't think that needs to be the primary driver of service it is just the type of connection this could make possible. 1 or two through trips a day in each direction timed with local services say Boston-Springfield and Albany, A Boston to Berkshires express in the summer, in the Capital region of NY and between Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, and in Ontario. Hitting smaller cities along the way would make partial trips appealing by the main train too and pick up passengers along the way but of course would have to be balanced with speediness.

A good service could also very well drive demand.
Its more the duplication of service. I absolutely agree that the communities Utica, Rochester, Syracuse etc need service, but they already get it, 3x daily. NYC to Niagara Falls, 2 daily round trips on the Empire Service via Albany, and 1 through to Toronto on the Maple Leaf. The only major communities you'd miss on the Maple leaf are Boston, Springfield, Worcester... all of which are served by the LSL, which gets you to Albany and as far as Buffalo Depew (admittedly not a very useful station).

If you can make a connection to the Maple Leaf anywhere between (or at) Albany and Buffalo, that service pattern can exist. Which, admittedly, right now you can't - the LSL leaves Boston too late to make any of the connections to Niagara / beyond. Even if EW rail meaningfully reduces travel times, If you want to create the service, I would say that the best option is to extend a later Empire Service as a Maple Leaf, scheduled to allow connections from the LSL at Albany, especially since the Berkshire Flyer @ Pittsfield is already scheduled as an extension of the Empire. To me, its a scheduling problem, and there's no need to create a separate train to do it from Springfield, given how well Albany is already set up to be the hub of the wheel.
 
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Balerion

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Springfield should be a connection point for two routes to Canada. Boston-Toronto, which could hit a lot of other medium to large cities on the way. buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Schenectady, Albany, Pittsfield, Worcester, Framingham. The other would be a secondary NYC to Montreal route through Connecticut and Vermont. I think it makes a lot more sense for a Boston-Montreal route to go the more direct route from Boston to Montreal through Manchester and Concord. Perhaps it is crazy to think NH would support it. It would probably be a lot faster but maybe more expensive and environmentally complicated.
It would not be faster because the ROW north of Concord is windy and slow. In any event, the success of the direct Boston-Montreal train depends on piggybacking off of robust Amtrak service in the Boston-Springfield corridor in one half, and providing a second train to the Vermonter corridor north of Springfield on the other half.

And as we know, NH and trains have a tortured relationship. If/when NH ever comes around, the Concord-WRJ segment would not exactly be anywhere near the top of the priority list for them.
 

Arlington

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Boston-Concord still works better as an MBTA service (primarily that MBTA has a priority right to operate it), and because Concord-Montreal won’t pay back its investment

Springfield will be a great rail hub, And the payback is better because you can layer several services on to every spoke, particularly when BOS-SPG is fast and frequent
 

Stlin

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Boston-Concord still works better as an MBTA service (primarily that MBTA has a priority right to operate it), and because Concord-Montreal won’t pay back its investment

Springfield will be a great rail hub, And the payback is better because you can layer several services on to every spoke, particularly when BOS-SPG is fast and frequent
interestingly enough, NHDOT seems to have been a bit blindsided by the Amtrak proposal on the capitol corridor; the latest meeting minutes from the project developing MBTA (6/23) noting that its definitely an Amtrak proposal not MBTA service mapped onto Amtrak maps.

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DBM

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In any event, the success of the direct Boston-Montreal train depends on piggybacking off of robust Amtrak service in the Boston-Springfield corridor in one half, and providing a second train to the Vermonter corridor north of Springfield on the other half.
Come on, in what real-world scenario does this proposition come anywhere close to generating a robust market? (however one defines "robust")

A driver leaving from, say, the Auburndale neighborhood of Newton consults a map (let's pretend they don't know where Montreal is in relation to EMass), and sees that, taking Route 128 to 3/93 to I-89 and then across the border to Montreal is all of 290 miles or so. Averaging 70 miles per hour, they know they can do that in 4.5 hours, with a quick break in, say, Hanover or Burlington. And that's door-to-door.

In comparison, a train service composed of segments--as you propose--getting on at the commuter rail stop at Auburndale (let's suppose the service to Springfield from South Station will include the Auburndale stop), then to Springfield, then Springfield up the CT River Valley to link-up with the preexisting Vermonter route to St. Albans, and then presumably laying a new corridor to make the leap to Rouses Point to take that service through to Montreal (per the Amtrak national map), would be at least 350 miles.

So, due to the insistence on the ridiculously circuitious route through Springfield, you've just added 60 miles to the route, versus a car-based journey.

To match that 4.5-hour car trip, then--that is, to make it truly competitive, that train trip, from Auburndale to Montreal, is going to have to average 80 miles per hour. But between Auburndale and Montreal you're going to have stops (at minimum, let's hypothesize) Worcester, Springfield, Brattleboro, White River Junction, Montpelier, St. Albans. Five minutes added per stop, let's say. And that's if you ONLY have six stops between Auburndale and Montreal.

... point being, you're going to need a very fast train--like, ACELA fast--to make this competitive with driving from within the Route 128 region market. And in this hypothetical scenario, I tipped the scales in the favor of opting for the train by having the theoretical customer be an Auburndale resident and thus living extremely close to the preexisting South Station-Springfield rail corridor.

point being: I just don't see how the Springfield route would ever plausibly siphon-off would-be drivers departing from the Route 128 region market, unless the trains being used are traveling at ACELA speeds throughout, to compensate for the ridiculous burden of having imposed an additional 60 miles, due to the Springfield routing.
 

donkeybutlers

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Its more the duplication of service. I absolutely agree that the communities Utica, Rochester, Syracuse etc need service, but they already get it, 3x daily. NYC to Niagara Falls, 2 daily round trips on the Empire Service via Albany, and 1 through to Toronto on the Maple Leaf. The only major communities you'd miss on the Maple leaf are Boston, Springfield, Worcester... all of which are served by the LSL, which gets you to Albany and as far as Buffalo Depew (admittedly not a very useful station).
Maybe this could add a western end in Toronto similar to how it has two eastern routes? This could add frequency on the core of the route and provide a new service at the same time.

Come on, in what real-world scenario does this proposition come anywhere close to generating a robust market? (however one defines "robust")

A driver leaving from, say, the Auburndale neighborhood of Newton consults a map (let's pretend they don't know where Montreal is in relation to EMass), and sees that, taking Route 128 to 3/93 to I-89 and then across the border to Montreal is all of 290 miles or so. Averaging 70 miles per hour, they know they can do that in 4.5 hours, with a quick break in, say, Hanover or Burlington. And that's door-to-door.

In comparison, a train service composed of segments--as you propose--getting on at the commuter rail stop at Auburndale (let's suppose the service to Springfield from South Station will include the Auburndale stop), then to Springfield, then Springfield up the CT River Valley to link-up with the preexisting Vermonter route to St. Albans, and then presumably laying a new corridor to make the leap to Rouses Point to take that service through to Montreal (per the Amtrak national map), would be at least 350 miles.

So, due to the insistence on the ridiculously circuitious route through Springfield, you've just added 60 miles to the route, versus a car-based journey.

To match that 4.5-hour car trip, then--that is, to make it truly competitive, that train trip, from Auburndale to Montreal, is going to have to average 80 miles per hour. But between Auburndale and Montreal you're going to have stops (at minimum, let's hypothesize) Worcester, Springfield, Brattleboro, White River Junction, Montpelier, St. Albans. Five minutes added per stop, let's say. And that's if you ONLY have six stops between Auburndale and Montreal.

... point being, you're going to need a very fast train--like, ACELA fast--to make this competitive with driving from within the Route 128 region market. And in this hypothetical scenario, I tipped the scales in the favor of opting for the train by having the theoretical customer be an Auburndale resident and thus living extremely close to the preexisting South Station-Springfield rail corridor.

point being: I just don't see how the Springfield route would ever plausibly siphon-off would-be drivers departing from the Route 128 region market, unless the trains being used are traveling at ACELA speeds throughout, to compensate for the ridiculous burden of having imposed an additional 60 miles, due to the Springfield routing.
This is why a route through New Hampshire just has way more potential use, even if it is harder to get off the ground.
 

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Most of these rail markets are supported as much by the intermediate stops—and solo and car-lite households.—not
Strictly by and two and travelers who could have driven
 

donkeybutlers

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Most of these rail markets are supported as much by the intermediate stops—and solo and car-lite households.—not
Strictly by and two and travelers who could have driven
Still though the NH route would at least have stops in Manchester and Concord and one of the old mill cities in northern MA, doesn't seem like this would be less there, just different locations. It also still seems relevant that for someone from Boston or Montreal (the biggest locations on the route) the more direct route would make taking the train from one to the other faster and thus more of an option.
 

Wash

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The best way to get overnight service BOS-MTL in the near future is to have an overnight train that splits in Springfield with one leg going to New York/Washington and another going down the B&A to Boston. The two hours don't matter so much when people are sleeping through the journey, and the train retains access to the NEC/New York market.

Some old timetables suggest that an overnight train would take a little more than an hour to travel from St. Albans to Montreal. The old overnight timetable has the Montrealer pulling in to Springfield at 12:15 AM going North, and 4:20 AM going South. Currently, the Lake Shore Limited takes about two and a half hours between Boston and Springfield; adding on an extra hour for padding and a "Split" in Springfield yields this very reasonable overnight schedule:

Northbound:
Leave BOS: 8:45 PM
Arrive MTL: 8:00 AM

Southbound:
Leave MTL: 7:45 PM
Arrive BOS: 8:25 AM

Consist could be...1 sleeper and 2 or three coaches from the Boston section, with 3 coaches, a business class car, a café, two sleepers and a bag-dorm on the New York section. A diner isn't strictly necessary on this run, but possibly some boxed meals could be stashed in the café for sleeping car passengers.
 
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Balerion

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Come on, in what real-world scenario does this proposition come anywhere close to generating a robust market? (however one defines "robust")

A driver leaving from, say, the Auburndale neighborhood of Newton consults a map (let's pretend they don't know where Montreal is in relation to EMass), and sees that, taking Route 128 to 3/93 to I-89 and then across the border to Montreal is all of 290 miles or so. Averaging 70 miles per hour, they know they can do that in 4.5 hours, with a quick break in, say, Hanover or Burlington. And that's door-to-door.

In comparison, a train service composed of segments--as you propose--getting on at the commuter rail stop at Auburndale (let's suppose the service to Springfield from South Station will include the Auburndale stop), then to Springfield, then Springfield up the CT River Valley to link-up with the preexisting Vermonter route to St. Albans, and then presumably laying a new corridor to make the leap to Rouses Point to take that service through to Montreal (per the Amtrak national map), would be at least 350 miles.

So, due to the insistence on the ridiculously circuitious route through Springfield, you've just added 60 miles to the route, versus a car-based journey.

To match that 4.5-hour car trip, then--that is, to make it truly competitive, that train trip, from Auburndale to Montreal, is going to have to average 80 miles per hour. But between Auburndale and Montreal you're going to have stops (at minimum, let's hypothesize) Worcester, Springfield, Brattleboro, White River Junction, Montpelier, St. Albans. Five minutes added per stop, let's say. And that's if you ONLY have six stops between Auburndale and Montreal.

... point being, you're going to need a very fast train--like, ACELA fast--to make this competitive with driving from within the Route 128 region market. And in this hypothetical scenario, I tipped the scales in the favor of opting for the train by having the theoretical customer be an Auburndale resident and thus living extremely close to the preexisting South Station-Springfield rail corridor.

point being: I just don't see how the Springfield route would ever plausibly siphon-off would-be drivers departing from the Route 128 region market, unless the trains being used are traveling at ACELA speeds throughout, to compensate for the ridiculous burden of having imposed an additional 60 miles, due to the Springfield routing.
This is very much the wrong way to think about a Boston-Montreal train via Springfield — or via NH (where the directness of the route would be offset by the slowness of the ROW).

Some people would take the full length of the train from Boston to Montreal, but if that seems like a weak market to you, sure: you're right. But that also badly misses the point of this train. End-to-end riders are gravy here. There aren't enough of them to justify the train, but they don't need to.

Since trains make many stops along the full length of the line, you have to evaluate the potential ridership of all of the station-pairs. It's not just Boston-Montreal riders. It's Boston-Springfield riders. Worcester-Springfield. Framingham-WRJ. Worcester-Essex Junction. Springfield-Montreal. And every other combination of every two stops on the line. AND — it's people arriving at Springfield from CT and the Northeast Corridor and making a transfer to points north. All together, it adds up. The Vermonter already does reasonably well despite have only one daily round trip and zero connectivity to central or eastern Massachusetts because the Boston-Springfield-New Haven service that would be a prerequisite for a Boston-Montreal train doesn't exist.

So: Boston-Montreal needs the NNEIRI proposal service levels of Boston-Springfield-New Haven service. In isolation, it doesn't make any sense. But if you think of it as adding a +1 to robust daily service between Boston-Springfield and another +1 to the daily service between Springfield and Montreal (a de facto second Vermonter frequency), you're just talking about giving a reasonable service bump to two sensible corridors. It just so happens that the +1s combine to create a one-seat ride from Boston to Montreal.
 

Balerion

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Still though the NH route would at least have stops in Manchester and Concord and one of the old mill cities in northern MA, doesn't seem like this would be less there, just different locations. It also still seems relevant that for someone from Boston or Montreal (the biggest locations on the route) the more direct route would make taking the train from one to the other faster and thus more of an option.
The NH route is a quixotic plan because the level of investment to get it started would be very high. The trackage past Boscawen no longer exists, and even if you entirely rebuilt the line it wouldn't be very fast because the ROW is very curvy.

Boston-Montreal isn't a good enough route to justify huge standalone investment. The reason why the Boston-Montreal route via Springfield is workable is because it basically piggybacks on proposed investment in the Worcester-Springfield corridor that would primarily be for the much bigger fish of Boston-Springfield-New Haven, and for some proposed Canadian investment to bring the pre-existing Vermonter to Montreal.

Not much would need to spent specifically for Boston-Montreal via Springfield, and I'm not sure it would be any slower than the route via NH.

What needs to be acknowledged here is that using mainline corridors as ridership anchors for more marginal routes is a recipe for success. Trains like the Keystone Service to Harrisburg or the Vermonter or the Virginia Northeast Regional extensions are successful because they are attached to the Northeast Corridor. In isolation, they would be much less successful.

Being attached to a mainline corridor makes a variety of connections/transfers possible, and gives these trains a ridership "anchor". The Boston-Springfield segment would provide this kind of ridership "anchor" to a Boston-Montreal train in ways that the NH route very much would not. This is because in a universe where Boston-Montreal is considered, Springfield would be a major transfer hub, and there would be 8-10 daily RTs between Springfield and Boston already.
 

DBM

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This is very much the wrong way to think about a Boston-Montreal train via Springfield — or via NH (where the directness of the route would be offset by the slowness of the ROW).

Some people would take the full length of the train from Boston to Montreal, but if that seems like a weak market to you, sure: you're right. But that also badly misses the point of this train. End-to-end riders are gravy here. There aren't enough of them to justify the train, but they don't need to.

Since trains make many stops along the full length of the line, you have to evaluate the potential ridership of all of the station-pairs. It's not just Boston-Montreal riders. It's Boston-Springfield riders. Worcester-Springfield. Framingham-WRJ. Worcester-Essex Junction. Springfield-Montreal. And every other combination of every two stops on the line. AND — it's people arriving at Springfield from CT and the Northeast Corridor and making a transfer to points north. All together, it adds up. The Vermonter already does reasonably well despite have only one daily round trip and zero connectivity to central or eastern Massachusetts because the Boston-Springfield-New Haven service that would be a prerequisite for a Boston-Montreal train doesn't exist.

So: Boston-Montreal needs the NNEIRI proposal service levels of Boston-Springfield-New Haven service. In isolation, it doesn't make any sense. But if you think of it as adding a +1 to robust daily service between Boston-Springfield and another +1 to the daily service between Springfield and Montreal (a de facto second Vermonter frequency), you're just talking about giving a reasonable service bump to two sensible corridors. It just so happens that the +1s combine to create a one-seat ride from Boston to Montreal.
I get it--I appreciate the clarification. This all makes sense. Obviously I was looking at it solely from the perspective of doing everything possible to make it competitive vs. driving by car from Route 128 region to Montreal.

The larger issue--that the rest of the New England AMTRAK network deserves to be "ACELA"-ized, i.e., to have train service that consistently goes 120 mph+ between stations--to me, remains. It's a very long-running national embarrassment. The Wiki page on the matter, as it turns out, is in equal measures depressing/enraging, encouraging, and informative.

"There is no current train service in the United States which meets all of the domestic criteria for high-speed rail."
 

donkeybutlers

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What needs to be acknowledged here is that using mainline corridors as ridership anchors for more marginal routes is a recipe for success. Trains like the Keystone Service to Harrisburg or the Vermonter or the Virginia Northeast Regional extensions are successful because they are attached to the Northeast Corridor. In isolation, they would be much less successful.
A Boston-NH-MTL route seems to make more sense rpost NSRL then.

Springfield does make sense as a regional hub, and this does likely seem to be the easiest way to get reasonable train service to Canada anytime soon. I will say MTL is closer than Philly and its easy to underestimate the appeal of lines when the current service sucks/doesnt exist. I don't think the only option to MTL should be a night train, and ideally it could eventually be made to live up to European/Asian HSR standards, thus way outpacing a car (having to rethink a ROW may actually be an opportunity there).

Ideally both will eventually exist, I don't think they inherently need to be pitted against one another, and it likely very well makes more sense to build out Springfield where people are asking for it rather than NH with its abundant state and personal buffoonery and self sabotage.
 

The EGE

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BOS-MTL via NH would require reactivating 65 miles of curvy, hilly ROW, currently in use by a rail trail, with a lot of new grade crossings, with basically no online passenger or freight potential. That seems like an unlikely value proposition, given that going via SPG hits a lot more population on existing infrastructure, with relatively little time difference. BOS-WRJ via NH never got faster than 4 hours, primarily due to the curves and long grades in NH. Amtrak can do it in 5 hours right now via Springfield, and relatively reasonable upgrades could drop that close to 4 hours.

A Concord-WRJ bus can cover the gap in half the time of a train. Have timed connections to the Montreal train at WRJ and to MBTA service at Concord, and it's an easy win to connect NH to the MTL service.

Here is the first phase of a 2003 study about the route. The routes weren't terribly encouraging.
 

Tallguy

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So I'll say that Springfield should get more and better train service, but it should be targeted at occasional riders. There seems to be a lot of people advocating for train service to Springfield to attract some significant number of daily commuters. That's a pipedream, a boondoggle, or both. It's not even particularly practical as a way reduce carbon emissions since high speed rail only has a notably favorable carbon footprint when comparing to planes (and not to cars which will be primary competition with a Springfield to Boston train)
I can't speak to carbon footprint, but compare Transitmatters "90 min to Springfield" times of 90 min to Springfield and 75 min to Palmer, and I would throw in a 60 min to Charlton. That compares to the present 75-90 min ride to Worcester. Would value-driven (have you seen RE prices in Springfield?) commuters take that ride? They do now, not just on the Worcester Line, but on several other routes as well
 

Tallguy

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There was no mention "north" in "western leg" (singular). Amherst, incidentally, is situated north and east of Springfield. My guess is that Thruway Service between the erstwhile AMM and SPG would be highly unlikely.
As a former UMass student, I can tell you the preferred route is Amh-Palmer, either by train or bus(the PVTA goes halfway to Belchertown now) PVTA has also started Amherst- Worcester service. There is a market, even with PPs crappy service
 

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