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Issue:- 22 March  2012

Stand by for Star Wars

OK, set your co-ordinates for a star studded week-end at Spaceport over 24 March and 25 March 2012, when characters from the Star War movies Admiral Motti, Boba Fett and Captain Khurgee visit the Seacombe attraction.

There will be Star Signings by three actors; Richard Le Parmentier who played Admiral Motti in 'Star Wars episode IV A New Hope', Jeremy Bulloch famous as Boba Fett in 'Star Wars episode V The Empire Strikes Back' and 'Star Wars episode VI Return of the Jedi' who also played Captain Jeremoch Colton in 'Star Wars episode III Revenge of the Sith' and Chris Muncke who played Captain Khurgee in 'Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope'.

Organised in conjunction with Star Wars re-enactment group, The 99th Garrison, the weekend also gives fans the chance to get up close with over 30 costumed characters, whilst exploring Spaceportís interactive, hands-on exhibitions.

For budding Jediís the weekend offers lightsaber workshops, face painting and an exhibition of prop replicas and memorabilia from the Star Wars universe

Councillor Mark Dowd, Chair of Merseytravel, said:- "The weekend will be fantastic for Star Wars enthusiasts and we are really pleased to have some of the stars of the films with us.  This has always proved to be a very popular event and we are glad to be offering fans another chance to meet their heroes whilst learning more about space and space travel"

Usual admission prices apply with no extra charge for workshops, signed photographs and face painting extra charge.

See spaceport.org.uk or call:- 0151 330 1566 for full details.

Merseytravel Chairman Condemns Arriva Child Price Hike

MERSEYTRAVEL Chairman, Councillor Mark Dowd, has slammed a plan by bus company Arriva to increase child fares by 32% as "fundamentally unfair".  The decision will see child prices rise from half to two thirds of an adult fare across Merseyside, a move criticised by Cllr Dowd as completely out of step with the reality of the current economic pressure faced by Merseysiders.

Cllr Dowd said:- "What Arriva are planning is fundamentally unfair. Statistics show that bus patronage is at its highest in the poorest communities and it is families who have been hardest hit in the current financial climate."  He added;- "Private profit making bus companies like Arriva should be picking up the cost of half price travel for kids, and I call on Arriva to act with good corporate social responsibility and reverse this punishing and destructive decision."

The operator has blamed a cut in a central government fuel grant (BSOG) as its reason for the dramatic price rise, but Cllr Dowd pointed to best practise elsewhere across the public transport network, and highlighted the fact that Merseytravel incorporated a guaranteed half price child fare into their 25 year concession agreement with Merseyrail.

Merseytravel do not determine the fares that the private profit making bus companies choose to charge, but Cllr Dowd has this advice for passengers unwilling or unable to meet this price hike: "Merseytravelís pre paid ticketing, such as Saveaway, Trio and Solo tickets continue to offer better value for money than buying on board."

Space Fact of the week:- "Asteroid that nearly hit Earth will return next year!"

DID you know we had a close encounter with an asteroid in February? Well don't worry if you missed it as this asteroid according to ESA will again whizzes past Earth in 2013. The unusual asteroid was spotted by an amateur team on 22 February 2012 by the La Sagra Sky Survey observatory, in the southeast of Spain, near Granada. When spotted it's small size and orbit meant that it had already flown past Earth and was then at about 7 times the distance of the Moon! The asteroid was dubbed 2012 DA14 and while an impact with Earth has been ruled out on the asteroid's next visit, on 15 February 2013, astronomers hope to use it's close approach for more studies. This space rock is in fact expected to be coming closer to Earth than many commercial satellites, at just 24,000 km. "This is a safe distance, but it is still close enough to make the asteroid visible in normal binoculars." says Detlef Koschny, responsible for Near Earth Objects in ESA's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Office. But ESA and other groups say that it highlights the  ever growing need to keep watch on hazards from above.

A network of improvements

ALMOST £1 million is being spent to improve facilities across the Merseyrail network including new DDA compliant toilets and a further extension of the real time information service. Councillor Mark Dowd, chair of Merseytravel, said:- "These latest improvements are part of our continuing investment programme to ensure Merseyrail remains one of the best rail networks in the country."

A £625,000 grant under the Department for Transport Access for All programme; that sees an additional £100,000, each from Merseytravel and Merseyrail, who will provide 17 stations with new DDA compliant toilet facilities.

The stations are:- Bebington, Birkenhead Park, Bromborough, Cressington, Eastham Rake, Fazakerley, Freshfield, Green Lane, Leasowe, Manor Road, Moreton, Old Roan, Orrell Park, St Michaels, Seaforth & Litherland, Spital and Town Green.

Merseyrail was also allocated £153,000 DfT funding to provide real time train information at Capenhurst, Bache, Little Sutton and Overpool and plans to have real time information in all 66 stations on the network before the end of this year.

In addition new lifts, funded by Network Rail, will be installed at Orrell Park Station, greatly improving access for passengers and the ticket office area will be upgraded with funding from the National Stations Improvement Programme.  Councillor Dowd added:- "In the current harsh economic climate of cutbacks it is increasingly more difficult to raise money for improvements but we will continue to compete for whatever grants are available to ensure the best possible service for the people of Merseyside."

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