Mcalpine set for Big Ben repair deal as clock row rages
THE Government is poised to announce that Sir Robert Mcalpine, one of the UK’S largest private companies, has won the contract to repair London’s Elizabeth Tower, despite the row over the decision to silence Big Ben for four years to protect workers’ hearing.
The construction giant had already been awarded scaffolding and pre-construction contracts worth around £3.5m, but is now understood to have secured the entire £29m job.
Ministers are expected to announce the deal when MPS return from the recess, although the work itself has been overshadowed by outrage over the decision to silence the famous bell for four years while it is carried out.
Sir Robert Mcalpine will be tasked with conserving significant elements of the iconic tower, which was designed by architects Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin in 1835. It will also repair and redecorate the interior, renew building services, and improve health, safety and fire prevention.
Unions representing Sir Robert Mcalpine workers said they were monitoring the situation, but remained committed to protecting staff on what would be a “difficult and complicated project”.
A union spokesman said: “Concerns about noise levels are genuine as damage to hearing is likely over a sustained period of time and the use of ear defenders is not suitable as it would result in the workers not being able to communicate effectively which impacts on safety and the efficiency of the workers.”
He added that there was a danger of workers being startled by the bell, which posed a particular risk to people working at height.
It is unclear whether the plan to silence Big Ben will be reversed amid the outcry, with critics including the man who has maintained the clock for decades, clock-maker Melvyn Lee, who branded the plan “nonsense”.
Sir Robert Mcalpine declined to comment.