Grow­ing bill to fix Big Ben... now costs £80 mil­lion!

Oman Daily Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

LON­DON: The bill to re­pair Lon­don’s iconic Big Ben clock tower has in­creased by mil­lions of pounds af­ter the dis­cov­ery of World War II bomb da­m­age, pol­lu­tion and as­bestos, Bri­tain’s par­lia­ment said on Thurs­day.

The cost of ren­o­vat­ing the El­iz­a­beth Tower hous­ing the fa­mous clock, which be­gan in 2017, is now set to rise to nearly £80 mil­lion.

The ex­ten­sive da­m­age re­quir­ing an ex­tra £18.8 mil­lion was only re­vealed once the project team was able to be­gin in­tru­sive sur­veys for the first time ever on the 177-year-old struc­ture.

How­ever, the ef­forts to re­store the tower “to its pre­vi­ous splen­dour” re­main on track for com­ple­tion in late 2021, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials.

A spokesper­son for the House of Commons Com­mis­sion, which is over­see­ing the project, called the spi­ralling costs “very frus­trat­ing”.

Ian Ailles, Di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the House of Commons, said the task of restor­ing the El­iz­a­beth Tower “had been more com­plex than we could have an­tic­i­pated”.

“With a 130 square feet foot­print and a prime lo­ca­tion right in the mid­dle of a busy work­ing par­lia­ment, un­der­stand­ing the full ex­tent of the da­m­age to the tower was im­pos­si­ble un­til the scaf­fold­ing was up,” he added.

The work is to re­pair the clock faces and mech­a­nism, cracks in the tower’s ma­sonry and cor­ro­sion in the roof, as well as to re­store the edg­ing around the clock faces.

A lift will also be in­stalled as an al­ter­na­tive to the steps up the tower, and the lights il­lu­mi­nat­ing the clock will be re­placed by low-en­ergy LEDS.

Com­pleted in neo-gothic style in 1856 by par­lia­ment ar­chi­tect Au­gus­tus Pu­gin, the tower has suf­fered from con­sid­er­able degra­da­tion over time. The ren­o­va­tions have meant Big Ben — whose chimes fea­ture on Bri­tish tele­vi­sion and ra­dio news bul­letins — has been largely silent since 2017.

That has proved con­tentious, spark­ing protests in par­tic­u­lar when they did not sound to mark Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union last month.


Dis­placed Syr­i­ans flee the coun­try­side of Aleppo and Idlib prov­inces to­wards Afrin district near the bor­der with Turkey.

The clock face of El­iz­a­beth Tower, known af­ter the bell Big Ben.

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