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Hello, never really thought of writing this up until I spotted a board for this very purpose. Here goes...

A bit of background info: this journey was in March 2019. I work on the railway, which means I'm entitled to port tax fares on former Sealink routes. Well, the ones that haven't been shut down.

My original plan had been to catch the sleeper to London with a friend and spend a day sampling the Class 37s that had somehow ended up on a public service in the 21st Century. However, his partner took ill (they're fine!) and I ended up in London by myself with my passport in my kit bag, and two days until I was next on shift and a mad idea forming in my head.

The last time I'd taken a ferry from Dover was way back in 2004 on a family holiday, on Seafrance's Manet and Renoir. My ferry jaunts since then had been almost exclusively to the Hebrides, time to put that right.

A call to P&O's booking line was made. The staff member on the other end was a wee bit confused about what I wanted to do, but managed to get me a foot passenger ticket to Calais for this afternoon and back to Dover tomorrow. Next, a booking for Hôtel Particulier Richelieu - who cares about reviews when it's £39 four hours before check-in?

To my surprise, and nobody else's, I'm the only foot passenger on the sailing. The P&O bus driver is Scottish, so I stand at the front of the bus chatting to him. I suspect Border Force think I'm also staff, as we're waved past them. the French Police Nationale, but don't seem particularly impressed by my greeting them in French as I hand over my passport. "Are you French?" asks the officer, who was presently looking British passport's data page which shows my very Scottish name, Scottish place of Birth, and my rather un-French nationality. Oh well.

Pride of Canterbury is already waiting and not particularly busy. Her layout takes a wee bit of getting used to, as it seems a lot of the port side is closed off. The tiny open deck area on Deck 8 is more than a disappointment, given that everyone seems confined to a pen surrounded by saltwater stained glass walls that are set a good six feet back from the railings, making decent photos more or less impossible. Never mind, it's freezing anyway.

I spend most of the crossing in the 'Family Lounge' (whatever that is) looking out through the murk towards France. On arrival in Calais, I'm somewhat bemused by the announcements for all foot passengers to assemble by the information desk. I am the only foot passenger, unless someone has been cut off by their family mid-crossing. There's a rather long wait for the gangway to be lowered. I hop across, and it's immediately raised as soon as I clear it. The French port bus seems marginally nicer than the Dover one, but since it's also cold and damp, I wouldn't consider that much of a compliment.

I'm deposited by the front door and in a taxi within seconds. This being the developed world, I assumed that the driver would accept card. He did not. I'm treated to an impromptu tour of north Calais while he locates an ATM for me, before dropping me at my hotel.

For those of you that haven't visited the abandoned city of Pripyat, Google it now. This is essentially what my hotel looked like. Tall, barren trees loomed over a lumpy road and a four-storey building coated in something the same shade as wallpaper paste. Inside, the lobby is extremely dusty and there's an old bathtub lying at the bottom of the stairs.

The owner greets me and gets me my room key, he explains that the hotel is undergoing renovations. I ask if he's just bought it recently? No, it's been in the family for decades. My foot well and truly in my mouth, I head up to my first floor room, via what appears to be a building site. A lot of the walls are bare concrete. I'm not convinced that there's any other rooms on my landing. Nonetheless, my room - it turns out - is lovely. Dated, yes - and sure, the floor isn't exactly even - but it has WiFi, plug sockets, a comfy bed, and a newish TV which receives British channels.

I spend much of the evening there, bar a visit to l'Hovercraft for dinner (highly recommended) and the Carrefour for snacks. Decent snacks, not your usual Tesco nonsense.

The following morning, I dander up towards the shore, heading through Calais' bizarre pre-fab concrete courtyards and up to the pier. Despite more dreary weather, I manage to see a fair amount of the Calais regulars coming in and out before I head back into the town, and back to the terminal.

I perhaps should have left earlier, for it's clear the port is in chaos. Turns out today is the day that the French authorities decided to test their post-Brexit procedures, which more or less immediately caused several mile-long tailbacks. Every sailing is running late. My 1430 crossing on the Pride of Canterbury (again) is now expected at 1530. I try to get on the 1530, but it's apparently not taking foot passengers.

This may be a good time to point out that my last train back to Scotland is at 1900 UK time. Still, a 1530 departure would see me in Dover for 1600 and back at King's Cross for 1800 easily.

Of course, things only got worse. the 1430 got progressively later. Eventually, I'm called to the rather packed shuttle bus and dropped at the border control cabins. "So, what do you do on the ferry, then?" asks the UK border agent. Eh? "What, you don't work on it?" Erm, no. "Ah right, everyone else that's come through does."

As we wait outside in the cold and wet for what seems like an eternity for the bus, I get chatting to the ferry crew. It turns out they work on the Pride of Kent and are heading home after taking her to drydock for refurbishment. It is now well past 1530, but the Pride of Canterbury is still loading. When the bus arrives, I ask if there's any chance of going on the delayed 1530 crossing  - it appears almost ready to go, with a much shorter line of traffic waiting to board. No, I'm told, the Canterbury will sail first.

How can I put this? It didn't. Spirit of Britain sailed a good bit ahead of us, leaving the Canterbury to follow some time later on the now rather choppy Channel. By now we're two hours late, and the fact that I can barely feel the Canterbury ploughing through the chop is small comfort. As we approach the berth it's clear as day that I will miss my last train north.

An interesting call follows to P&O as I try to navigate their delay compensation policy, as well as EU rules on out of pocked expenses. First, I'm offered a 25% refund for the delay. However, as that amounts to just 75p for me, I'm not too keen. I explain that I'll likely need a hotel, as I'll be stranded and need to get an early train to get north for work. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, the incredible helpful (and patient) agent agrees to compensate me up to £80 for transport or hotel bills. Phew. The last flight of the day from Heathrow to Scotland is promptly booked.

This is just as well, as the Dover skywalk has taken a hissy fit, and we all need to be retrieved by bus once the car deck had emptied. Once we're back on dry land, I jump in a taxi with a few other folk heading to Priory station. As we approach St Pancras, I can see my train leaving King's Cross below us. A narrow escape.

I'm at Heathrow within the hour, and somehow still have time to grab a meal from the T5 Wetherspoons. Not bad, all things considered.

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Welcome to the forum @fiobhaniar.

Your story of one of those 'hmm, I wonder' moments remind me of my trip to see the last stage of the Tour de France last year.

It was only during the opening weekend when after discovering reasonably priced hotels (60 euros a night in an Ibis Styles near the Parc de Princes, that'll do me) I decided to attempt a trip to Paris in 3 weeks' time to see it. I had a similar foot passenger trip lined up to do Wiltshire - Paris in one day via Dover/Calais as a foot passenger and had it all planned out. Thankfully (or sadly, depending on your point of view!) the good folks at Rail Staff Travel were able to offer Eurostar availability instead at the bare minimum notice and I was saved the expedition. 

An uneventful journey both ways, and I made the 20:03 out of London Pad after arriving into St Pancras at 19:30. In the end a complete non-event. 

I have been meaning to go on a jaunt to Calais at some point, purely for the hell of it/to use the travel benefit whilst we've still got it, but haven't got round to it and at the current rate is very much a 'parked' idea!

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6 hours ago, AdamW said:

Welcome to the forum @fiobhaniar.

Your story of one of those 'hmm, I wonder' moments remind me of my trip to see the last stage of the Tour de France last year.

It was only during the opening weekend when after discovering reasonably priced hotels (60 euros a night in an Ibis Styles near the Parc de Princes, that'll do me) I decided to attempt a trip to Paris in 3 weeks' time to see it. I had a similar foot passenger trip lined up to do Wiltshire - Paris in one day via Dover/Calais as a foot passenger and had it all planned out. Thankfully (or sadly, depending on your point of view!) the good folks at Rail Staff Travel were able to offer Eurostar availability instead at the bare minimum notice and I was saved the expedition. 

An uneventful journey both ways, and I made the 20:03 out of London Pad after arriving into St Pancras at 19:30. In the end a complete non-event. 

I have been meaning to go on a jaunt to Calais at some point, purely for the hell of it/to use the travel benefit whilst we've still got it, but haven't got round to it and at the current rate is very much a 'parked' idea!

Love Eurostar, but going on foot from Dover always feels like an adventure - no doubt due to the complexity of trying to do it! 
 

I use Rail Canterbury for my FIP travel, they tend to be more knowledgeable than RST - who tried to sell me TGV reservations for 80€ when Canterbury wanted 8€...

 

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This was a really interesting account.

Unless I’m wrong, the absence of comments suggests that there’s nothing contentious about your report (no bad thing) ......... so don’t be put off posting again.

 

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11 hours ago, Gardian said:

This was a really interesting account.

Unless I’m wrong, the absence of comments suggests that there’s nothing contentious about your report (no bad thing) ......... so don’t be put off posting again.

 

I very much enjoyed reading it :)

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On 29/10/2020 at 17:06, fiobhaniar said:

First, I'm offered a 25% refund for the delay. However, as that amounts to just 75p for me, I'm not too keen. I explain that I'll likely need a hotel, as I'll be stranded and need to get an early train to get north for work. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, the incredible helpful (and patient) agent agrees to compensate me up to £80 for transport or hotel bills.

To be honest, my sympathy was with P&O, for a fare costing £3 (I wish I could get concessionary fares !), they had to pay out £80.

I understand Brittany Ferries reluctance to take foot passengers.

However, thanks for the story, it was very interesting and got me looking up all of the rules for the railway concessions with envy - especially the free 48 hour train ticket !

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4 hours ago, David Williams said:

To be honest, my sympathy was with P&O, for a fare costing £3 (I wish I could get concessionary fares !), they had to pay out £80.

I understand Brittany Ferries reluctance to take foot passengers.

However, thanks for the story, it was very interesting and got me looking up all of the rules for the railway concessions with envy - especially the free 48 hour train ticket !

My Gran (97) is entitled to some of this kind of stuff as Grandad (dead now for 22 years) worked for BR (approx. 40 years ago)

She, understandably does not make much use of it. I just need to find a suitable disguise so I can pass myself off as her...

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On 02/11/2020 at 10:01, David Williams said:

 

However, thanks for the story, it was very interesting and got me looking up all of the rules for the railway concessions with envy - especially the free 48 hour train ticket!

We're very, very lucky to get the benefits. Essentially works out at 1 coupon (4 boxes) of 48 hours per year per European country (8 days travel) in a 3-month period. Indeed I did order a German coupon for use at the back end of this year, but something tells me that won't ever need to see the light of day.... 

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On 29/10/2020 at 17:06, fiobhaniar said:

Hello, never really thought of writing this up until I spotted a board for this very purpose. Here goes...

A bit of background info: this journey was in March 2019. I work on the railway, which means I'm entitled to port tax fares on former Sealink routes. Well, the ones that haven't been shut down.

My original plan had been to catch the sleeper to London with a friend and spend a day sampling the Class 37s that had somehow ended up on a public service in the 21st Century. However, his partner took ill (they're fine!) and I ended up in London by myself with my passport in my kit bag, and two days until I was next on shift and a mad idea forming in my head.

The last time I'd taken a ferry from Dover was way back in 2004 on a family holiday, on Seafrance's Manet and Renoir. My ferry jaunts since then had been almost exclusively to the Hebrides, time to put that right.

A call to P&O's booking line was made. The staff member on the other end was a wee bit confused about what I wanted to do, but managed to get me a foot passenger ticket to Calais for this afternoon and back to Dover tomorrow. Next, a booking for Hôtel Particulier Richelieu - who cares about reviews when it's £39 four hours before check-in?

To my surprise, and nobody else's, I'm the only foot passenger on the sailing. The P&O bus driver is Scottish, so I stand at the front of the bus chatting to him. I suspect Border Force think I'm also staff, as we're waved past them. the French Police Nationale, but don't seem particularly impressed by my greeting them in French as I hand over my passport. "Are you French?" asks the officer, who was presently looking British passport's data page which shows my very Scottish name, Scottish place of Birth, and my rather un-French nationality. Oh well.

Pride of Canterbury is already waiting and not particularly busy. Her layout takes a wee bit of getting used to, as it seems a lot of the port side is closed off. The tiny open deck area on Deck 8 is more than a disappointment, given that everyone seems confined to a pen surrounded by saltwater stained glass walls that are set a good six feet back from the railings, making decent photos more or less impossible. Never mind, it's freezing anyway.

I spend most of the crossing in the 'Family Lounge' (whatever that is) looking out through the murk towards France. On arrival in Calais, I'm somewhat bemused by the announcements for all foot passengers to assemble by the information desk. I am the only foot passenger, unless someone has been cut off by their family mid-crossing. There's a rather long wait for the gangway to be lowered. I hop across, and it's immediately raised as soon as I clear it. The French port bus seems marginally nicer than the Dover one, but since it's also cold and damp, I wouldn't consider that much of a compliment.

I'm deposited by the front door and in a taxi within seconds. This being the developed world, I assumed that the driver would accept card. He did not. I'm treated to an impromptu tour of north Calais while he locates an ATM for me, before dropping me at my hotel.

For those of you that haven't visited the abandoned city of Pripyat, Google it now. This is essentially what my hotel looked like. Tall, barren trees loomed over a lumpy road and a four-storey building coated in something the same shade as wallpaper paste. Inside, the lobby is extremely dusty and there's an old bathtub lying at the bottom of the stairs.

The owner greets me and gets me my room key, he explains that the hotel is undergoing renovations. I ask if he's just bought it recently? No, it's been in the family for decades. My foot well and truly in my mouth, I head up to my first floor room, via what appears to be a building site. A lot of the walls are bare concrete. I'm not convinced that there's any other rooms on my landing. Nonetheless, my room - it turns out - is lovely. Dated, yes - and sure, the floor isn't exactly even - but it has WiFi, plug sockets, a comfy bed, and a newish TV which receives British channels.

I spend much of the evening there, bar a visit to l'Hovercraft for dinner (highly recommended) and the Carrefour for snacks. Decent snacks, not your usual Tesco nonsense.

The following morning, I dander up towards the shore, heading through Calais' bizarre pre-fab concrete courtyards and up to the pier. Despite more dreary weather, I manage to see a fair amount of the Calais regulars coming in and out before I head back into the town, and back to the terminal.

I perhaps should have left earlier, for it's clear the port is in chaos. Turns out today is the day that the French authorities decided to test their post-Brexit procedures, which more or less immediately caused several mile-long tailbacks. Every sailing is running late. My 1430 crossing on the Pride of Canterbury (again) is now expected at 1530. I try to get on the 1530, but it's apparently not taking foot passengers.

This may be a good time to point out that my last train back to Scotland is at 1900 UK time. Still, a 1530 departure would see me in Dover for 1600 and back at King's Cross for 1800 easily.

Of course, things only got worse. the 1430 got progressively later. Eventually, I'm called to the rather packed shuttle bus and dropped at the border control cabins. "So, what do you do on the ferry, then?" asks the UK border agent. Eh? "What, you don't work on it?" Erm, no. "Ah right, everyone else that's come through does."

As we wait outside in the cold and wet for what seems like an eternity for the bus, I get chatting to the ferry crew. It turns out they work on the Pride of Kent and are heading home after taking her to drydock for refurbishment. It is now well past 1530, but the Pride of Canterbury is still loading. When the bus arrives, I ask if there's any chance of going on the delayed 1530 crossing  - it appears almost ready to go, with a much shorter line of traffic waiting to board. No, I'm told, the Canterbury will sail first.

How can I put this? It didn't. Spirit of Britain sailed a good bit ahead of us, leaving the Canterbury to follow some time later on the now rather choppy Channel. By now we're two hours late, and the fact that I can barely feel the Canterbury ploughing through the chop is small comfort. As we approach the berth it's clear as day that I will miss my last train north.

An interesting call follows to P&O as I try to navigate their delay compensation policy, as well as EU rules on out of pocked expenses. First, I'm offered a 25% refund for the delay. However, as that amounts to just 75p for me, I'm not too keen. I explain that I'll likely need a hotel, as I'll be stranded and need to get an early train to get north for work. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, the incredible helpful (and patient) agent agrees to compensate me up to £80 for transport or hotel bills. Phew. The last flight of the day from Heathrow to Scotland is promptly booked.

This is just as well, as the Dover skywalk has taken a hissy fit, and we all need to be retrieved by bus once the car deck had emptied. Once we're back on dry land, I jump in a taxi with a few other folk heading to Priory station. As we approach St Pancras, I can see my train leaving King's Cross below us. A narrow escape.

I'm at Heathrow within the hour, and somehow still have time to grab a meal from the T5 Wetherspoons. Not bad, all things considered.

How were the Class 37's?! :)

 

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On 02/11/2020 at 10:01, David Williams said:

To be honest, my sympathy was with P&O, for a fare costing £3 (I wish I could get concessionary fares !), they had to pay out £80.

I understand Brittany Ferries reluctance to take foot passengers.

However, thanks for the story, it was very interesting and got me looking up all of the rules for the railway concessions with envy - especially the free 48 hour train ticket !

I get what you mean, but it’s the same with any form of transport - especially now the rules have changed on delays.

If an operator causes you to lose money due to a failing on their part, then you’re due compensation for reasonable costs.

You can get a £9.99 Ryanair flight and end up with €250 compensation if it gets to the gate 180 mins late.

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10 hours ago, fiobhaniar said:

I get what you mean, but it’s the same with any form of transport - especially now the rules have changed on delays.

If an operator causes you to lose money due to a failing on their part, then you’re due compensation for reasonable costs.

You can get a £9.99 Ryanair flight and end up with €250 compensation if it gets to the gate 180 mins late.

However for airlines, a situation such as this would be deemed extraordinary circumstances and as such outside of their control.  As it's the authorities that are testing for the breakdown of common sense what if scenario of Brexit, it's not a failing on P&O's part.

 

Enjoyed reading your report though.

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24 minutes ago, Lapper said:

However for airlines, a situation such as this would be deemed extraordinary circumstances and as such outside of their control.  As it's the authorities that are testing for the breakdown of common sense what if scenario of Brexit, it's not a failing on P&O's part.

 

Enjoyed reading your report though.

No worries, thank you! I'd hate to think people thought me some kind of chancer, so I'll explain a little more: the case I put across was that P&O had the option to mitigate the delays to some extent by putting me on the Spirit of Britain. They would have had the knowledge as to which vessel would sail first, but chose to not accept foot pax on that sailing (even though it was bookable the day before) for operational convenience. Having worked in a control room myself, I get the logic - but it would have got me back to the UK in time.

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12 hours ago, fiobhaniar said:

I never got them in the end...

They would have been Class 57's -  one of the four GWR Castle's used solely for the Night Riviera. A great experience, I used to use the Sleeper regularly.

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22 minutes ago, colinschandler said:

They would have been Class 57's -  one of the four GWR Castle's used solely for the Night Riviera. A great experience, I used to use the Sleeper regularly.

Definitely 37s, they were running in East Anglia!

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5 hours ago, fiobhaniar said:

Definitely 37s, they were running in East Anglia!

Sorry,  got confused with your planned trip on the sleeper. It is amazing that so many class 37  "tractors" are still in service having been so for 60 years. Even longer than the HST 125's. I love the classic shape of the 37's inherited from 10000 and 10001, albeit with a longer nose.

As a 8 year old in the late forties, I used to rush home from school to watch 10000 pulling the St Pancras -Manchester express though Hendon.

Photo - By Ben Brooksbank, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15174310

Cricklewood_number_10000_geograph-2388326-by-Ben-Brooksbank.jpg

Edited by colinschandler
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56 minutes ago, colinschandler said:

Sorry,  got confused with your planned trip on the sleeper. It is amazing that so many class 37  "tractors" are still in service having been so for 60 years. Even longer than the HST 125's. I love the classic shape of the 37's inherited from 10000 and 10001, albeit with a longer nose.

As a 8 year old in the late forties, I used to rush home from school to watch 10000 pulling the St Pancras -Manchester express though Hendon.

Photo - By Ben Brooksbank, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15174310

 

I think the sleeper was how @fiobhaniartravelled down to London... more west coast than west country...!

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4 hours ago, colinschandler said:

Up to London. All trains go up to London even from Edinburgh.

I have never been "up" to London in my life, despite many, many visits. Take the word of a Shetlander.

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9 minutes ago, colin said:

I have never been "up" to London in my life, despite many, many visits. Take the word of a Shetlander.

I wonder if the "up" and "down" lines swap labels midway through the Channel Tunnel going "up" to London and then "up" to Paris??

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2 minutes ago, colinschandler said:

I wonder if the "up" and "down" lines swap labels midway through the Channel Tunnel going "up" to London and then "up" to Paris??

No, it's always 'over to Paris', even when you go under. Ed

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As a child I was a member of BR's "Railriders Club", as was my brother. Our school holidays were often slightly different from my mum's and childcare fell to my dad who lived in a bedsit so we had to go out. He had a family railcard so he travelled for half price and my brother and I paid £1 each. Our Railriders Club membership gave us vouchers for money off train tickets and also entry to attractions. Each year we got two £1 vouchers for money off train tickets, plus a number of 50p vouchers, and one day we had a return trip from Glasgow to London where my dad paid a half fare and my brother and I travelled for free. Other trips took us to Mallaig, Inverness, Aberdeen via the Forth Rail Bridge, Carnforth, York, and when the line was threatened with closure Carlisle to Settle (the full trip was Glasgow-Carlisle-Leeds-Manchester-Preston-Glasgow).

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And as a kid in the mid to late 70s I was a member of BR Southern Region's Pleasure Seeker club - in retrospect it sounds not a little sinister !  In those days BR had lots of spare rolling stock lying around at weekends and they used to deploy some of it on regional  charters to some pretty exotic (to me) day trip destinations (Plymouth, York, Birmingham, Lake District, Blackpool), all from Broadstairs in Kent spring to mind. The idea being to generate a few bob from otherwise temporarily redundant vehicles. These days there's very little spare stock knocking about on Saturdays, and in any case network fragmentation and driver route familiarity issues rule such trips out, except for the odd specialist charter.

Coming back to the issue of farcical trip experiences, the originally intended Brexit weekend in Feb 19 saw me and my mate travel to Holland for the weekend to down a few pints and enjoy a blues gig at a little town called Oss - an Americal lady called Kat Riggins, since you ask.  The weekend went swimmingly until our arrival back in Hull from Rotterdam on Sunday morning.  The skywalk failed so all the foots had to wait nearly an hour until the car deck was cleared before leaving the ship.  As we waited, we saw the railway station bus arrive and then leave again dead on time, albeit empty - unbelievable.  We then had a further hour's wait for the later bus  and then had a rail replacement bus service from Hull to Selby before finally joining a train at lunchtime. Welcome to Britain.....

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