London’s iconic Big Ben will be silent for a while as much needed repairs, estimated to cost about £40 million are carried out, lawmakers have warned.
Most of the Great Clock’s components need refurbishment, including the Elizabeth Tower, pendulum, and mechanism. A cross-party report found that failure to carry out the repairs might cause ‘reputational damage’.
This will be the first time in thirty-one years that London’s landmark clock tower has an overhaul.
According to a parliamentary spokesperson:
“No decisions on works, timescales or costs have been agreed.”
The Elizabeth Tower, which stands at the northern end of the Houses of Parliament, was completed in 1859, while the Great Clock started on 31 May, with the Great Bell’s strikes heard for the first time on 11 July, and the quarter bells first chimed on 7 September. (Data Source: parliament.uk)
The Commons Finance Committee reported serious faults in the 156-year old clock tower, including potentially damaging cracks in the masonry, corrosion in the clock house, and a leaking roof.
Since health and safety regulations were tightened up, upgrades are needed to bring the structure up-to-date.
Officials commented that the 3-year restoration programme needs to start immediately, and cannot wait until the Palace of Westminster gets its long-planned refit at the end of this decade. The refurbishment of Big Ben is expected to last about 4 months.
Repairs to the Palace of Westminster (the Houses of Parliament) will cost £7 billion.
According to the Sunday Times and Daily Mail, whose journalists had access to the report:
“There are major concerns that if this is not carried out, the clock mechanism is at risk of failure with the huge risk of international reputational damage for Parliament.”
“In the event of a clock-hand failure, it could take up to a year to repair due to the scaffolding needed.”
Officials said at least £4.9 million will be needed just to make sure the clock works, while a further £29 million will be required for the ‘full refurbishment’.
Add to that the visitor centre at the base of the tower, and installing an elevator to take tourists up to the top, the total cost is likely to be closer to £40 million.
Video – The History of Big Ben