Future of Overland train service in doubt

 
Topic moved from News by dthead on 25 Nov 2019 19:16
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
    I am curious as to what was discussed here, but I have seriously limited monthly band-width, so am reluctant to play the whole thing.  Could someone please summarize for me what was discussed/decided at this meeting?
    Thank you.
A whole lot of nostalgia and pleading, and very little in terms of constructive suggestions for how to reform the service to become more sustainable.

    Do any current ideas on how The Overland could be made sustainable over a longer time include making it a night train again?  If so, what form might this take?  (From what I recall of previous mentions of this, opinions seemed to be divided.)
Tarkinji
This is a really excellent question and I'd say that the topic of the Overland train would have to have been one of the most-discussed trains on this entire board in the time that I've been posting here. It's been done to death -however I'm guessing you're a relatively new poster so you can't be blamed for not knowing the history of those threads.

If I was going to give you a synopsis, I'd say that the possibility of a night/hotel type train has been explored but it works in very few places overseas and there's certainly no example of it having worked successfully here in Australia. You'd have to contend with a late departure from Adelaide/Melbourne to make up for the fact that the train needs to arrive at a civilized time at its destination and the existing rolling stock is certainly not fit-for-purpose as a high-end hotel type operation. Also the availability of train paths at night (the busiest time for the line) is an issue.

Break-of-gauge has hobbled the Overland since 1995 when the standard gauge track took over the Ararat-Geelong line thus removing the main west from one of the largest sources of passengers on the whole line - Ballarat. Even if a modern V/locity type daytime operation was to resume the fact that Ballarat is currently precluded from those operations is a killer in my opinion. I for one generally travel to the Ballarat district when I'm visiting Victoria which is why the train in its current form is useless to me.

Finally, the speed of the service is a substantial impediment to a successful daytime operation - at a shade under 11 hours it simply isn't competitive with driving or indeed the meandering V/line Daylink bus which diverts from Horsham to Bendigo, yet still manages to beat the train into Melbourne. In order to speed the passenger train up you'd need some major investment in the line to construct more and longer crossing loops and remove level crossings that present a potentially fatal hazard to DMU operations, and given that the Commonwealth owns the line via ARTC they are the ones who would have to invest the money.

That's pretty much all the problems in a nutshell.

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  Tarkinji Station Master

Location: Healesville, Victoria, Australia
Thanks for that description of the situation, Don Dunstan.


I'd say that the possibility of a night/hotel type train has been explored but it works in very few places overseas and there's certainly no example of it having worked successfully here in Australia.
don_dunstan
    Well, didn't The Overland work along that line?  The Southern Aurora?  I suppose it depends on what you mean by "works".  I recall a time when both The Overland and Southern Aurora were very popular, sometimes fully booked.  Doesn't that amount to "working"?
     What are the factors or circumstances that make it work?


You'd have to contend with a late departure from Adelaide/Melbourne to make up for the fact that the train needs to arrive at a civilized time at its destination and the existing rolling stock is certainly not fit-for-purpose as a high-end hotel type operation. Also the availability of train paths at night (the busiest time for the line) is an issue.
don_dunstan
    I would have suggested that the late departure could be avoided and a civilized arrival time maintained by slowing the train down a little - just like The Overland used to do.  IF you're sleeping on the way, it surely doesn't matter if the journey is longer; in fact, I'd consider it a deficit if the journey is too short if it means you have to wake up bleary-eyed after 5 or 6 hours' sleep, because you've arrived.
    As I say, I *would* have suggested that; but if the line is busiest at night (presumably largely for freight), does that mean a slightly slower Overland would interfere with that, because the freight trains would want to go faster?  (I'm only guessing.)
    Which rolling stock are you referring to as being not fit-for-purpose?  If we're talking about a hypothetical night-time Overland, what rolling-stock would be used, anyway? - or would new vehicles be built?  I understand most of the old Overland sleeping cars are now permanently unavailable owing to having been transformed into totally different formats.


Break-of-gauge has hobbled the Overland since 1995 when the standard gauge track took over the Ararat-Geelong line thus removing the main west from one of the largest sources of passengers on the whole line - Ballarat.
don_dunstan
    As a matter of curiosity, why did they make the standard-gauge line go through Geelong rather than Ballarat?  Did they hope to pick up more business from Geelong than they would lose in Ballarat?


Finally, the speed of the service is a substantial impediment to a successful daytime operation - at a shade under 11 hours it simply isn't competitive with driving or indeed the meandering V/line Daylink bus which diverts from Horsham to Bendigo, yet still manages to beat the train into Melbourne.
don_dunstan
    Are you talking about the current day train there?  As I mentioned above, I'd have thought the time would be less crucial for a night train, when passengers would be sleeping anyway.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Word is that the Overland is close to getting a 3 year extension on a new timetable.
Words coming from where?  What is the source, and is it credible?
Definitely credible.
Link?
:rolleyes:
Fatty

Some posters have no idea whatsoever...nor do they realise there are posters in here who actually work in the rail/transport industry.

Mike.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
How generous of them. And a whole three months - very useful.
Memo to Don; suggest check original post by Fatty; he said three years.
Reading comprehension isn't one of Don's strong points.
So what, I read 'months' where it was actually years. HOW much money does that mean those poor dupes in Victoria are paying for an occasional train service to our state?

The average Victorian taxpayer V/line subsidy per trip is around $19 - but we're getting a train service here that costs us nothing but that Victorians are paying $600 per passenger. Suckers! You could buy everyone a business-class plane seat for that price.
don_dunstan

Sorry....not sorry you are so upset Don. I didn't realise you'd take this news so badly... Smile

COVID-19 will be a distant memory and the Overland...by all accounts will continue to operate thanks to some people with foresight and imagination.

Mike.
  Contrillion Junior Train Controller

Location: Geelong, Victoria
As a matter of curiosity, why did they make the standard-gauge line go through Geelong rather than Ballarat?  Did they hope to pick up more business from Geelong than they would lose in Ballarat?
Tarkinji
Primarily to avoid the harsher terrain over the shorter route (primarily Bacchus Marsh - Ballarat). Keep in mind that the line is predominantly used for freight so passenger catchment would have been a relatively minor consideration in that decision-making process.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Sorry....not sorry you are so upset Don. I didn't realise you'd take this news so badly... Smile

COVID-19 will be a distant memory and the Overland...by all accounts will continue to operate thanks to some people with foresight and imagination.
The Vinelander

Long live the Overland and the provision of basic transport services for the economy and the people.  It it NOT just about money.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

You'd have to contend with a late departure from Adelaide/Melbourne to make up for the fact that the train needs to arrive at a civilized time at its destination and the existing rolling stock is certainly not fit-for-purpose as a high-end hotel type operation. Also the availability of train paths at night (the busiest time for the line) is an issue.
    I would have suggested that the late departure could be avoided and a civilized arrival time maintained by slowing the train down a little - just like The Overland used to do.  IF you're sleeping on the way, it surely doesn't matter if the journey is longer; in fact, I'd consider it a deficit if the journey is too short if it means you have to wake up bleary-eyed after 5 or 6 hours' sleep, because you've arrived.
Tarkinji
The current 11.5 hour time (10.5 hours moving plus 1 hour check in time) is too slow. If you're lucky enough to get 8 hours of sleep, you're still stuck on the train awake for over three hours.

If it's timed to arrive at a reasonable 7:30am local time (to allow time for passengers to move off towards where they are going in time for the start of the day) then you need to have people checking in by 7:30pm (Adelaide to Melbourne - remember you lose half an hour on the way) or 8:30pm (Melbourne to Adelaide - gain half an hour on the way) which is too early.

The idea of a night train being a relaxing option is that a person could wind down after work and enjoy their evening before heading off to catch the train. Unless you live very close to both your workplace and the city station, a 7:30pm check in time probably means going straight from work to the train and bolting down some nasty fast food on the way.

If an early departure is going to steal a whole evening for an early departure, it's not going to win over business travellers who will pay full price fares. The competing option of relaxing in the evening at home and getting a good night's sleep in your own bed before getting up an hour earlier than normal for a morning flight is still too damn attractive, even more so for non-gunzels who are more likely to have a partner and family whose company they enjoy. If you restrict your market to pensioners and gunzels, you'll have the same problems as the current train does of requiring great wodges of subsidy to haul empty carriages back and forth.

It would need to come down to no more than 9.5 hours including check in time. For a reasonable 7:30am arrival, that makes for check in times of 9:30pm (departing from Adelaide) and 10:30pm (departing from Melbourne) which would allow you to enjoy your evening before heading to the train.

As I say, I *would* have suggested that; but if the line is busiest at night (presumably largely for freight), does that mean a slightly slower Overland would interfere with that, because the freight trains would want to go faster?  (I'm only guessing.)
Tarkinji
It's a single track route, so running at a busy time means more crosses with freight trains going the other way.

Stopping and starting is also noisy and bumpy, which is going to disrupt sleep and make the competition (get a good night's sleep in your own bed, get up an hour or so early for a morning flight) look more attractive.

It might be possible to organise a premium path that takes absolute priority and has everything else wait for it so there won't be any stopping and starting, but that will drive up the cost of the sleeper as freight operators demand to be compensated for accepting extensive delays to their trains so the Overland can glide past.

As a matter of curiosity, why did they make the standard-gauge line go through Geelong rather than Ballarat?  Did they hope to pick up more business from Geelong than they would lose in Ballarat?
Primarily to avoid the harsher terrain over the shorter route (primarily Bacchus Marsh - Ballarat). Keep in mind that the line is predominantly used for freight so passenger catchment would have been a relatively minor consideration in that decision-making process.
Contrillion
And also to make for a much simpler/cheaper conversion, without needing to cater for converting Ballarat regular passenger services to standard gauge.
  justarider Chief Commissioner

Location: Free at last, free at last
    I am curious as to what was discussed here, but I have seriously limited monthly band-width, so am reluctant to play the whole thing.  Could someone please summarize for me what was discussed/decided at this meeting?
    Thank you.
A whole lot of nostalgia and pleading, and very little in terms of constructive suggestions for how to reform the service to become more sustainable.

    Do any current ideas on how The Overland could be made sustainable over a longer time include making it a night train again?  If so, what form might this take?  (From what I recall of previous mentions of this, opinions seemed to be divided.)
Tarkinji
This is a really excellent question and I'd say that the topic of the Overland train would have to have been one of the most-discussed trains on this entire board in the time that I've been posting here. It's been done to death -however I'm guessing you're a relatively new poster so you can't be blamed for not knowing the history of those threads.

If I was going to give you a synopsis, I'd say that the possibility of a night/hotel type train has been explored but it works in very few places overseas and there's certainly no example of it having worked successfully here in Australia. You'd have to contend with a late departure from Adelaide/Melbourne to make up for the fact that the train needs to arrive at a civilized time at its destination and the existing rolling stock is certainly not fit-for-purpose as a high-end hotel type operation. Also the availability of train paths at night (the busiest time for the line) is an issue.

Break-of-gauge has hobbled the Overland since 1995 when the standard gauge track took over the Ararat-Geelong line thus removing the main west from one of the largest sources of passengers on the whole line - Ballarat. Even if a modern V/locity type daytime operation was to resume the fact that Ballarat is currently precluded from those operations is a killer in my opinion. I for one generally travel to the Ballarat district when I'm visiting Victoria which is why the train in its current form is useless to me.

Finally, the speed of the service is a substantial impediment to a successful daytime operation - at a shade under 11 hours it simply isn't competitive with driving or indeed the meandering V/line Daylink bus which diverts from Horsham to Bendigo, yet still manages to beat the train into Melbourne. In order to speed the passenger train up you'd need some major investment in the line to construct more and longer crossing loops and remove level crossings that present a potentially fatal hazard to DMU operations, and given that the Commonwealth owns the line via ARTC they are the ones who would have to invest the money.

That's pretty much all the problems in a nutshell.
"don_dunstan"

@don feel free to correct any error

Vline Daylink Adelaide to Melbourne - via Horsham & Bendigo(train) 6:50 to 19:32 elapsed 12:42 , less 30min time zone = 12:12
The Overland, 7:45 to 18:50 elapsed 11:05, less 30min = 10:35

Return Daylink 7:13 to 18:50, elapsed 11:27 , plus 30min time zone = 11:57
Return Overland 8:05 to 17:40, elapsed 9:35, plus 30min = 10:05

Tell me again where the bus is quicker.

cheers
John
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Richmond Vic
Vline Daylink Adelaide to Melbourne - via Horsham & Bendigo(train) 6:50 to 19:32 elapsed 12:42 , less 30min time zone = 12:12

The Overland, 7:45 to 18:50 elapsed 11:05, less 30min = 10:35

Return Daylink 7:13 to 18:50, elapsed 11:27 , plus 30min time zone = 11:57

Return Overland 8:05 to 17:40, elapsed 9:35, plus 30min = 10:05

Tell me again where the bus is quicker.
"justarider"


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall anyone suggesting that the bus is quicker.

The major objection, with which I happen to agree, is that the Overland is just economically unsustainable in its present form. A figure of 375 passengers a week on an intercapital train is economical unreality in anyone's language. More than one of our writers have already pointed out the extent of the government subsidy per passenger in some detail. I'm as much a fan of railways as anyone here, and I well remember the halcyon days of 17-plus vehicles, and seven trains a week each way. However, enthusiasm needs to be tempered by reality, and the Overland is now a basket case which needs some gentle euthanasia.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Finally, the speed of the service is a substantial impediment to a successful daytime operation - at a shade under 11 hours it simply isn't competitive with driving or indeed the meandering V/line Daylink bus which diverts from Horsham to Bendigo, yet still manages to beat the train into Melbourne. In order to speed the passenger train up you'd need some major investment in the line to construct more and longer crossing loops and remove level crossings that present a potentially fatal hazard to DMU operations, and given that the Commonwealth owns the line via ARTC they are the ones who would have to invest the money..

@don feel free to correct any error

Vline Daylink Adelaide to Melbourne - via Horsham & Bendigo(train) 6:50 to 19:32 elapsed 12:42 , less 30min time zone = 12:12
The Overland, 7:45 to 18:50 elapsed 11:05, less 30min = 10:35

Return Daylink 7:13 to 18:50, elapsed 11:27 , plus 30min time zone = 11:57
Return Overland 8:05 to 17:40, elapsed 9:35, plus 30min = 10:05

Tell me again where the bus is quicker.

Ps "meander via Bendigo" , same time difference driving via Ballarat or Bendigo.

cheers
John
justarider
You're right about Daylink vs. Overland and I'm wrong. However as I said when the bus goes through Ballarat overnight it's about the same; perhaps slightly quicker from memory - I'll post it when I find it.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
So what, I read 'months' where it was actually years. HOW much money does that mean those poor dupes in Victoria are paying for an occasional train service to our state?

The average Victorian taxpayer V/line subsidy per trip is around $19 - but we're getting a train service here that costs us nothing but that Victorians are paying $600 per passenger. Suckers! You could buy everyone a business-class plane seat for that price.
Sorry....not sorry you are so upset Don. I didn't realise you'd take this news so badly... Smile

COVID-19 will be a distant memory and the Overland...by all accounts will continue to operate thanks to some people with foresight and imagination.

Mike.
The Vinelander
Hey you're the one paying for that train, Mike - I'm not contributing anything. And I really don't see how an extension of the exact same service is going to see a turnaround in numbers given its been steadily declining over the last several years.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Vline Daylink Adelaide to Melbourne - via Horsham & Bendigo(train) 6:50 to 19:32 elapsed 12:42 , less 30min time zone = 12:12

The Overland, 7:45 to 18:50 elapsed 11:05, less 30min = 10:35

Return Daylink 7:13 to 18:50, elapsed 11:27 , plus 30min time zone = 11:57

Return Overland 8:05 to 17:40, elapsed 9:35, plus 30min = 10:05

Tell me again where the bus is quicker.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall anyone suggesting that the bus is quicker.

The major objection, with which I happen to agree, is that the Overland is just economically unsustainable in its present form. A figure of 375 passengers a week on an intercapital train is economical unreality in anyone's language. More than one of our writers have already pointed out the extent of the government subsidy per passenger in some detail. I'm as much a fan of railways as anyone here, and I well remember the halcyon days of 17-plus vehicles, and seven trains a week each way. However, enthusiasm needs to be tempered by reality, and the Overland is now a basket case which needs some gentle euthanasia.
Valvegear
As discussed, the Firefly overnight service is just under ten hours according to the Firefly timetable. It then turns around straight away and returns to Melbourne as the co-branded V/line Daylink service via Bendigo, which adds almost two hours to the journey. Those buses work awfully hard, don't they.

Anyway, you'll never make the foamy gunzels on this board see sense - they just want trains for the sake of it no matter how expensive they are. Personally I think if Chairman Dan and his transport minister wanted to continue to provide a train service to Western Victoria then they should have bit the bullet and cascaded the newly-ordered standard gauge V/locity trains from the Albury line onto a new Horsham/Dimboola daily return train.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Anyway, you'll never make the foamy gunzels on this board see sense - they just want trains for the sake of it no matter how expensive they are. Personally I think if Chairman Dan and his transport minister wanted to continue to provide a train service to Western Victoria then they should have bit the bullet and cascaded the newly-ordered standard gauge V/locity trains from the Albury line onto a new Horsham/Dimboola daily return train.
don_dunstan

There are many reasons for the Overland to stay which it will and there is an opportunity to offer a better service than a coach with the right approach and the right operator. Life is not all money and economics.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Anyway, you'll never make the foamy gunzels on this board see sense - they just want trains for the sake of it no matter how expensive they are. Personally I think if Chairman Dan and his transport minister wanted to continue to provide a train service to Western Victoria then they should have bit the bullet and cascaded the newly-ordered standard gauge V/locity trains from the Albury line onto a new Horsham/Dimboola daily return train.
don_dunstan

How do you know they haven't Question

M.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Anyway, you'll never make the foamy gunzels on this board see sense - they just want trains for the sake of it no matter how expensive they are. Personally I think if Chairman Dan and his transport minister wanted to continue to provide a train service to Western Victoria then they should have bit the bullet and cascaded the newly-ordered standard gauge V/locity trains from the Albury line onto a new Horsham/Dimboola daily return train.

How do you know they haven't Question

M.
The Vinelander
Are you making the announcement on their behalf?
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud

Anyway, you'll never make the foamy gunzels on this board see sense - they just want trains for the sake of it no matter how expensive they are. Personally I think if Chairman Dan and his transport minister wanted to continue to provide a train service to Western Victoria then they should have bit the bullet and cascaded the newly-ordered standard gauge V/locity trains from the Albury line onto a new Horsham/Dimboola daily return train.
There are many reasons for the Overland to stay which it will and there is an opportunity to offer a better service than a coach with the right approach and the right operator. Life is not all money and economics.
bevans
That's true, but then the existing model is an extremely expensive way to provide the service and twice a week really isn't meaningful public transport.

If someone knows something about the future of the train then by all means enlighten us - otherwise it's just an unsubstantiated rumor isn't it.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
That's true, but then the existing model is an extremely expensive way to provide the service and twice a week really isn't meaningful public transport.

If someone knows something about the future of the train then by all means enlighten us - otherwise it's just an unsubstantiated rumor isn't it.
don_dunstan

This is not a reason NOT to have the train.
  stooge spark Chief Train Controller

Location: My House

Anyway, you'll never make the foamy gunzels on this board see sense - they just want trains for the sake of it no matter how expensive they are. Personally I think if Chairman Dan and his transport minister wanted to continue to provide a train service to Western Victoria then they should have bit the bullet and cascaded the newly-ordered standard gauge V/locity trains from the Albury line onto a new Horsham/Dimboola daily return train.
There are many reasons for the Overland to stay which it will and there is an opportunity to offer a better service than a coach with the right approach and the right operator. Life is not all money and economics.
bevans
The only reason for the Overland to stay is because 40 somethings in Dimboola who have never used the train in their lifetime want to keep for bragging rights over nearby Pimpnio. The coach is 10000000 times better than the train, and that will never change unless the Overland doesn't go to Geelong.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Richmond Vic
There are many reasons for the Overland to stay which it will and there is an opportunity to offer a better service than a coach with the right approach and the right operator. Life is not all money and economics.
"bevans"
No; it isn't, but the bit of life where taxes paid by you and me are subsidising a train like the Overland is money and economics. Government expenditure is not there just so that you can watch an expensive train carry 375 passengers a week.
There's nothing to stop you getting a consortium together in order to operate the Overland if you insist that it must stay.
  Maximas Locomotive Fireman

Location: Geelong

Long live the Overland and the provision of basic transport services for the economy and the people.  It it NOT just about money.
bevans

I'm with Don, the current service (we'll see what comes out of the wash with the new timetable/operator or whatever else is on the cards here) is hopelessly uneconomic and doesn't provide anything meaningful for 'the people' - if it did they might use it. With the SA government not contributing it makes little sense to run the train over the border where faster and cheaper options exist (the bus is cheaper right?)

If the victorian government wants to serve the people of western victoria it could cater much more strongly to the people of Horsham and Stawell by providing a regular V-line service and widen it's catchment by opening up that previously flagged idea of shuttles to Hamilton via Dunkeld.
  Fatty Deputy Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
There are many reasons for the Overland to stay which it will and there is an opportunity to offer a better service than a coach with the right approach and the right operator. Life is not all money and economics.
No; it isn't, but the bit of life where taxes paid by you and me are subsidising a train like the Overland is money and economics. Government expenditure is not there just so that you can watch an expensive train carry 375 passengers a week.
There's nothing to stop you getting a consortium together in order to operate the Overland if you insist that it must stay.
Do you use everything that 'your' taxes pay for? Do you go to every library? Use every hospital? Drive on every road?
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Long live the Overland and the provision of basic transport services for the economy and the people.  It it NOT just about money.
I'm with Don, the current service (we'll see what comes out of the wash with the new timetable/operator or whatever else is on the cards here) is hopelessly uneconomic and doesn't provide anything meaningful for 'the people' - if it did they might use it. With the SA government not contributing it makes little sense to run the train over the border where faster and cheaper options exist (the bus is cheaper right?)
Maximas

Straight back to the economics.  This is not the driver.
  Maximas Locomotive Fireman

Location: Geelong

Straight back to the economics.  This is not the driver.
bevans
You can choose to wilfully ignore the economics but when it's tax dollars at play with stuff all return on investment I expect a better argument than the airy fairy "providing basic public transport provisions" to people who don't use the bloody thing. When the people of Ballarat, Geelong, Bendigo, Gippsland and outer certain Metropolitan Melbourne jurisdictions suffer through single line bottlenecks on well patronised lines, other towns and regions lack a passenger service at all and there's a billion other ways to usefully upgrade services (that people use and rely on) throughout the state using the finite resource that is taxpayer money it's bewildering to me that you won't consider any economic implications at all.

Your argument could be used to justify anything - why not provide "basic public transport provisions" to everyone in the state, why aren't we prepared to subsidise every train journey to the tune of $600 per trip, we don't have to consider economics do we? But we can at least apply our principles evenly
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Maximas, again you miss my point by looking at economics and opportunity cost.  Victoria does not start and finish in the Melbourne Metro Area and people outside of Melbourne pay taxes too and should also expect to be part of passenger rail services. These are socially supportive services and the Overland is part of that construct.  There is no right or wrong or who is worthy and who is not.  Victorians are all equal.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Richmond Vic
Do you use everything that 'your' taxes pay for? Do you go to every library? Use every hospital? Drive on every road?
"Fatty"
Come on; you're not really that stupid. Go away and think about what taxes are used for. I'll give you a hint, it has something to do with providing services consistent with sensible expenditure.

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