Profits have soared more than fourfold at Westmorland, the company that operates Tebay Services on the M6 and Rheged visitor and conference centre near Penrith.
Pre-tax profits for the year to June 28 jumped to £3.6m, from £833,000 in 2013-14, while turnover was 38 per cent higher at £71.8m.
Much of the increase was due to the opening of a new service station on the M5 in Gloucestershire and the acquisition of Cairn Lodge Services on the M74 in Scotland.
But the Cumbrian operations also performed well.
The annual report to shareholders hails a year of “excellent growth”.
It says: “This positive growth was due to the first full year of trading of Gloucester services northbound, the acquisition of Cairn Lodge Services and strong underlying trading in the Cumbrian businesses.
“Tebay Services benefited from a growth in motorway traffic driven by a buoyant and confident economy. Investment in its car parks enabled it to accommodate more customers at busy times.
“Our fuel business had a successful year growing substantially in total with the new businesses but also on a like-for-like basis.”
Westmorland is a second-generation family firm founded 40 years ago by John Dunning, a farmer who built a service station when the M6 was built across his land at Tebay. His daughter Sarah Dunning is now at the helm.
Unlike service stations operated by chains, Westmorland's have no franchised concessions. Instead, its restaurants and farm shops champion local produce.
Gloucester northbound services opened in May 2014, followed by the southbound services a year later, while Cairn Lodge in Lanarkshire was acquired in November 2014.
This expansion saw Westmorland's workforce rise from 577 to 714 over the year, approximately 500 of whom are in Cumbria.
As well as the service station at Tebay, the company operates the Westmorland Hotel and a caravan park and truck stop, which it says had “steady years”, while Rheged “continued to develop its cultural programme” and won 'gallery of the year' in the Cumbria Life Culture Awards.
The completion of a £45m investment in Gloucester Services – on time and on budget – saw a further increase in the company's borrowings.
Net debt at the year end was £38.1m, up from £23.3m, but fixed assets also increased to £64.7m from £45.9m.
Looking ahead, further investment is planned at Cairn Lodge.
The shareholders' report concludes: “We look forward to building on a successful year in 2015-16 with further growth and continuing to establish the new businesses.”
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