Costs double around project to fix London's Big Ben

Construction work is carried out on the Elizabeth Tower commonly known as Big Ben in London

The cost of renovating the British parliament's clock tower, which houses Big Ben, has more than doubled to £61 million (69 million euros, $82 million), authorities said Friday.

The House of Commons and House of Lords Commissions were told that the increase in costs is due to a better understanding of the complexity of the work needed to restore the tower.

"They instructed officials to provide regular updates on progress and costs to the relevant domestic committees so they can keep the commissions fully informed of the project".

Big Ben ceased chiming in August, and will remain silent until the fix works end in 2021, except for on special occasions such as New Year's Eve.

The commissions announced that construction firm Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, which already had the contract to put up the scaffolding, would carry out the works.

While there were "unique challenges" in work on a historic site, Parliament said it was disappointed at the rising bill and would launch a review.

"In advance of tendering contracts, the initial high level estimates were set at a lower level to avoid cost escalation from the market".

The fix effort caused controversy when it was announced that Big Ben would only chime on special occasions over the next four years while the works were being carried out.

"Of course we want to ensure that people are safe at work, but it can't be right for Big Ben to be silent for four years", she said to reporters. The name "Big Ben" comes from the 13.7-ton bell in the clock, which fell silent in August ahead of the four-year restoration project.

However, the total cost of the project to fix the Elizabeth tower - including fire safety work costs - is now an estimated £61m.



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