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Crowds greet Queen at train station

The Queen was greeted by crowds of well-wishers and slightly bewildered rail passengers when she arrived at a train station for the start of a visit to Manchester.

Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, she arrived slightly late on the Royal Train at platform one of Manchester Piccadilly station.

She strolled down the 100m long platform to the surprise of some travellers waiting for their train on the opposite platform.

But she was greeted by cheers as she emerged into the main station concourse.

The Queen, who was wearing a light blue coat and darker blue hat, walked through an honour guard of military personnel and British Legion flags, and stopped to talk to the crowd and accept flowers as she made her way to a waiting car outside.

The first royal engagement of today's visit to Manchester was to officially open the world's "greenest" office building.

The royal party was greeted with enthusiastic cheers from office workers lining the floors overlooking the entrance hall at One Angel Square, the Co-operative Group's new head office in the city.

The firm's £100 million HQ has been officially named the most environmentally-friendly building in the world, featuring the latest sustainable technology.

Today's visit marked the 150th anniversary of the Co-Operative movement, which now employs 95,000 people in the UK.

The Queen, wearing a Karl Ludwig dress and coat in turquoise silk and wool and indigo blue, and Philip were given a tour of the building.

They were also shown some of the fair-trade food and wines produced by the Co-op while meeting and chatting to workers.

Children from Blackley Primary School, Manchester, were also presented to the royal visitors, showing some of the artwork they have done as part of a scheme run by the company to teach youngsters about the importance of the environment.

The 40-minute visit came to an end with the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the official royal opening of the building - as the Duke had done at the firm's former home in Manchester more than 50 years ago.

Len Wardle, group chairman of the Co-Op, addressing the royal visitors in front of assembled staff, said: "We are proud and delighted to make the historic connection with the opening in 1962 of the CIS Tower across the road, by you, Sir, with today's event.

"Your Majesty, in our 150 years of business, we would invite you, on behalf of our members, colleagues and the communities we serve throughout Great Britain, to unveil this plaque for us."

The Queen pulled the cord to a round of applause - before Philip joked: "Back to work!"

The royal party then left for the next leg of their day-long visit to Manchester.

Several hundred well-wishers, including many schoolchildren, lined up in the sunshine to greet the Queen and Philip in Rochdale Road, Harpurhey, opposite The Factory Youth Zone.

The aim of The Factory is to give eight to 21-year-olds "somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to".

More than 2,300 people have passed through the doors of the £5 million facility since it opened in February 2012, attracted by the state-of-the-art sports, dance, music, media and arts activities.

It was one of the first such initiatives to be built as part of the Youth Zone models pioneered by the OnSide Youth Zones charity which relies on funding from local authorities, business leaders and charitable trusts.

Similar centres are up and running in Carlisle, Blackburn, Oldham and Wigan, with two more to follow in Wolverhampton and Birkenhead in 2015 thanks to £1million donations each from The Queen's Trust and the St James's Palace Foundation.

The Queen's Trust is also providing a grant of £200,000 towards the development of a Preston Youth Zone.

The royal visitors were given a tour of the building, which is open seven days a week to youngsters who pay £5 annual membership and then 50p a visit.

Among the more than 20 activities on offer, they witnessed youngsters going through their paces on a climbing wall, on trampolines, in a weights room, a boxing gym and the kitchen, where risotto was on the menu.

They met a number of the members and their parents, including Michelle Shields, 45, and her nine-year-old son, Kieran, who joined The Factory when it opened.

Mrs Shields lives at the back of the building in a deprived area of the city and admitted she was sceptical about the idea when it was first proposed.

"There was lots of trouble on the estate and I didn't want it on my doorstep because I thought it would attract even more problems," she said.

"I will be the first to hold my hands up and say I was wrong.

"I told the Queen that my son's confidence had gone through the roof. His confidence as a person has really grown."

Leon Field, 17, first visited The Factory a few months ago and has since taken up football coaching.

He said: "It gets you off the streets and out of trouble. It's all right, you get to know all sorts of different people."

Fellow volunteer Nikita Walker, 14, now wants to work with young people after getting involved in a long list of the activities on offer.

"I came here when it first opened and am really glad I did because before that I didn't do anything out of school", she said.

The Queen unveiled a plaque to mark her visit and then, along with the Duke, signed the visitors' book.

The Factory chief executive Paul Bird said: "The visit by Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh is an enormous honour and we are delighted that visit will draw attention to the needs of Manchester's most economically deprived young people."

Bill Holroyd, chairman of OnSide, said: "The support of The Queen's Trust and St James's Palace elevates our charity to a national level and will have a radical effect on our ambitious plans to extend the reach of our Youth Zones project.

"Through their generosity we are able to create a four-way partnership between the local business community, the council, the young people, the staff and volunteers. This partnership will go on to deliver for young people in the areas for many years to come."

OnSide's goal is to develop and open 20 Youth Zones across the UK by 2020.

The Factory Youth Zone is supported by fully trained staff and more than 120 volunteers, which costs £1 million to run each year.

The Queen and Philip later departed for a private lunch ahead of their return home on the Royal Train.

The private lunch was held at Gorton Monastery in east Manchester to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the start of the construction of the Pugin architectural masterpiece.

The monastery's volunteers lit 740 candles on the high altar to represent every month since the Queen's accession to the throne in February 1952.

Monastery chiefs are hoping to secure extra funding to complete the final phase of ongoing restoration and conservation work to enable it to open daily to the public.

Elaine Griffiths, chief executive of The Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust, said: "As custodians of this unique and sacred space we still need to raise £1 million to complete the restoration of and secure the future of this wonderful place for future generations. Having the spotlight on us today can only help in achieving our ambition to complete this very special journey."

The Queen unveiled a plaque made by Shaun Williamson, one of the sculptors who restored the 12 8ft (2.4m) statues of the saints which were reinstated on their plinths in the Great Nave last year.

The Queen and Philip also signed the visitors' book in front of more than 100 invited guests.

Before departing, the Queen was presented with a posy by 15-year-old Katy Griffiths, daughter of Paul and Elaine Griffiths who founded The Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust.


From Belfast Telegraph