AN EAST Lancashire firm has made at least £3million in just over two years after tripling its money on a stake in a rail company.

At the end of 2004 Fraser Eagle, based in Altham, became the majority shareholder in York-based Grand Central Railway, essentially making the company a train operator.

Now it has been revealed that Grand Central has now been taken over in a deal by a group led by two former rail bosses and the chairman of Bolton Wanderers Football Club.

Fraser Eagle is not revealing the exact financial details, but it is thought to be costing the new investors about £10million - which includes buying Fraser Eagle's 79 per cent share of the firm, the trains and meeting running costs of around £1m.

But Fraser Eagle, which has about 350 staff, has said it has more than tripled its initial £1.5million investment in Grand Central, in about two years.

Group managing director Kevin Dean said: "This is great news for Fraser Eagle because it secures the future of the company and will give us the funds we need to develop exciting new areas of the business.

"We financed Grand Central through a lengthy regulatory process with the rail authorities and also through a High Court legal challenge to get permission to operate these trains and we are now reaping the rewards of our determination."

The new owners of Grand Central includes Phil Gartside, chairman of Bolton Wanderers Football Club, who will act as director; and former rail firm bosses Giles Fearnley and Bob Howells, who will serve as chairman and vice-chairman.

In 2005/06, Fraser Eagle had a turnover approaching £50million in 2005/06.

The company specialises in coach services, but has branched out into other areas including car sales, and also has two World Choice travel shops.

It had established a new company, Bus Partnerships, which it is hoped will work with local authorities in England to supply transport.