The Great Train Robbery (2013 TV series)

The Great Train Robbery is a two-part British television miniseries,[1] written by Chris Chibnall, that was first broadcast on BBC One on 18 and 19 December 2013. The series is distributed worldwide by Kew Media.[2]

The Great Train Robbery
The Great Train Robbery 2013 DVD.jpg
GenreCrime drama
Based onGreat Train Robbery
Written byChris Chibnall
Directed by
Theme music composer
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series1
No. of episodes2 (list of episodes)
ProducerJulia Stannard
  • George Richmond
  • Gary Shaw
  • Mark Eckersley
  • Billy Sneddon
Running time90 minutes
Production companyWorld Productions
DistributorKew Media
Original networkBBC One
Picture format16:9 (1080i)
Audio formatStereo
Original release18 December (2013-12-18) –
19 December 2013 (2013-12-19)

It tells the story of the Great Train Robbery on 8 August 1963, first from the perspective of the robbers, and then from the perspective of the police. Episode one, A Robber's Tale details the organisation of and successful completion of the robbery. Episode two, A Copper's Tale follows the police investigation into the crime and subsequent arrest of many of the perpetrators.[3] Coincidentally, the first part, A Robber's Tale, was shown on the same day that train robber Ronnie Biggs died.[4][5][6]


A Robber's Tale is set between November 1962 and the aftermath of the Great Train Robbery on 8 August 1963. It begins in November 1962 at London Heathrow Airport where an earlier robbery took place, Bruce Reynolds (Luke Evans) then gathered a group of men to target the Royal Mail train heading between Glasgow and London.[1]

A Copper's Tale begins in the early morning of 8 August 1963 after the train robbery took place. Six of the best police officers from Scotland Yard are called to help with the investigation, with DCS Tommy Butler (Jim Broadbent) in charge.[1]


The cast of "A Robber's Tale"
The cast of "A Copper's Tale"

A Robber's TaleEdit

A Copper's TaleEdit


The Great Train Robbery was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, controller of BBC Drama, and Danny Cohen, controller of BBC One.[7][8] The executive producers are Simon Heath for World Productions, the company behind the series, and Polly Hill for the BBC.[8] Julia Stannard is the producer of the two ninety-minute films.[8]

The two films were first due to be broadcast in August 2013, on the 50th anniversary of the train robbery, but was postponed to December 2013 because of scheduling issues.[9] The production was inspired by the book Signal Red by Robert Ryan.


Filming began in Yorkshire in March 2013.[8] Various parts of Leeds city centre were used, such as the Adelphi public house, the Calls, Briggate, Hyde Park Picture House and other parts of Hyde Park.[10] The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway was used as Sears Crossing, where the actual robbery took place.[10] Other scenes were filmed at Bradford (City Hall entrance/main steps.Also at the end of pt2,the blue police light is placed where the actual police station was in City Hall originally), Shipley, Haworth and Goole.[10] Filey was used instead of Torquay for the scenes involving Reynolds' hideout.[10] According to the BBC, Yorkshire is the "most cost-effective and realistic alternative".[11]


# Title Directed by Written by Original air date UK viewers
1"A Robber's Tale"Julian JarroldChris Chibnall18 December 2013 (2013-12-18)6.35
After a heist at London Heathrow Airport garners a disappointing haul, Bruce Reynolds and his gang of working-class, small-time crooks get a tip about the Royal Mail train. The daily train coming from Glasgow on the West Coast Main Line will be carrying sacks of excess currency and picking up more at each stop on its way to London. They believe up to £1 million will be on board by the time it passes through Buckinghamshire. They bring in two train experts to join the crew and plot the heist from a rented farmhouse in the Aylesbury Vale, where they plan to hide out for a week until things calm down. But when the heist nets a record score of more than £2.6 million (equivalent to £58 million in 2020), Reynolds knows the police will be hot on their trail.
2"A Copper's Tale"James StrongChris Chibnall19 December 2013 (2013-12-19)5.99
Four days after the biggest robbery in British history to date, Flying Squad Chief Superintendent Tommy Butler is brought in to lead the investigation by the Home Secretary. Though the heist occurred in Buckinghamshire, Butler is convinced it was organised by London criminals, and he compiles his own dream team of detectives to hunt them down. They come up with shortlists of suspects among known criminals and Bruce Reynolds is on that list. A £10,000 reward for information leads to a tip from a neighbour about the rented farmhouse, but they are soon drowning in hoax callers and fake tips. Informants help them track down and arrest the gang one by one until three years after the robbery, when only one man is still at large: Bruce Reynolds.


According to Cheshire Today, the BBC was criticised for glorifying criminals when it announced the series.[13]


Overnight figures showed that A Robber's Tale, the first episode of The Great Train Robbery, was watched by 23.2% of the viewing audience for that time, with 5.23 million watching it.[14][15] The second episode, A Copper's Tale, had a 23.1% audience share and 4.95 million viewers, according to overnight figures.[16]

Critical receptionEdit

A Robber's Tale received a mixed response. Metro journalist Keith Watson gave the film two stars out of five and said he would have liked to have seen more background on the gang members.[17] The Daily Telegraph's Tom Rowley gave it four stars out of five and noted the high attention to detail by Chris Chibnall.[18] Sam Wollaston from The Guardian said A Robber's Tale "beautifully explores the dynamic of a gang of men".[19]


The Great Train Robbery received a BAFTA nomination in 2014.[20][21][22][23]

Home mediaEdit

The two films have been released on DVD by publisher Acorn Media UK and is available from the BBC. It was released at other outlets on 6 January 2014.[24]


  1. ^ a b c "The Great Train Robbery - Chris Chibnall's thrilling new drama for BBC One". BBC. 18 November 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  2. ^ Productions, World. "The Great Train Robbery - World Productions". World Productions. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  3. ^ "The Great Train Robbery – A Robber's Tale". BBC. 18 December 2013.
  4. ^ Withnall, Adam (18 December 2013). "Ronnie Biggs dead: Great Train Robbery fugitive dies aged 84". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
  5. ^ Campbell, Duncan (18 December 2013). "Ronnie Biggs picks his moment one last time". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  6. ^ Campbell, Duncan (18 December 2013). "Ronnie Biggs, face of Great Train Robbery, slips away with perfect timing". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  7. ^ "Jim Broadbent to lead cast in film two of BBC One's The Great Train Robbery". BBC. 2 May 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  8. ^ a b c d "Cast announced for first film of BBC One's The Great Train Robbery". BBC. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  9. ^ Branagan, Mark (5 November 2013). "Great Train Robbery drama filmed in Yorkshire". York Press. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d "Great film robbery as Yorkshire blags BBC rail drama". Yorkshire Post. 4 November 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  11. ^ Foot, Tom (3 November 2013). "Great Train Robbery TV drama films in unspoiled Yorkshire to get back to the 60s". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  12. ^ "BARB Top 30s".
  13. ^ "BBC launch Great Train Robbery drama". Cheshire Today. 20 November 2013. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  14. ^ Parker, Robin (19 December 2013). "Great Train Robbery makes solid start". Broadcast Now. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  15. ^ Eames, Tom (19 December 2013). "Great Train Robbery drama tops Wednesday with 5.2 million". Digital Spy. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  16. ^ Eames, Tom (20 December 2013). "Great Train Robbery concludes with 4.9 million on BBC One". Digital Spy. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  17. ^ Watson, Keith (19 December 2013). "The BBC's The Great Train Robbery: An unmerited attempt to lend the crime a noble quality". Metro. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  18. ^ Rowley, Tom (18 December 2013). "The Great Train Robbery: A Robber's Tale, BBC One, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  19. ^ Wollaston, Sam (18 December 2013). "The Great Train Robbery – TV review". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  20. ^ Furness, Hannah (7 April 2014). "Helena Bonham Carter up for TV Bafta for role of Elizabeth Taylor". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  21. ^ Lawrence, Ben (7 April 2014). "Bafta TV Awards 2014: the nominations". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  22. ^ Denham, Jess (7 April 2014). "Bafta TV awards 2014: Nominations in full". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  23. ^ Harris, Jamie (7 April 2014). "BAFTA Television Awards 2014: This year's nominees in full". Digital Spy. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  24. ^ "The Great Train Robbery: A Coppers Tale & A Robbers Tale (DVD)". BBC Shop. Retrieved 20 November 2013.

External linksEdit