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Cost of repairing Big Ben skyrockets to $82 million

Staff Writer |
The bill for repairing the world famous Big Ben clock tower at Britain's Houses of Parliament has more than doubled to almost $82 million.

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The cost of renovating the Elizabeth Tower was originally given as 39 million U.S. dollars, but 16 months later the amount has rocketed, provoking anger from some House of Commons politicians.

The parliamentary authorities confirmed the new estimate for the work saying the additional cost emerged after the project was found to be more complex and extensive than originally thought.

The Big Ben bongs were silenced on August 21 to pave the way for the work, which the chimes staying silent until the early 2020s except for rare special occasions.

Labor MP Caroline Flint who is a member of the parliamentary public accounts committee, told the Guardian newspaper that the official National Audit Office should launch an inquiry into the project.

She said: "For any cost like this to more than double within a short period suggests we need more rigorous scrutiny, week by week. It is an ominous beginning."

Conservative MP Peter Bone described the rise as extraordinary, telling the he was flabbergasted by the announcement.

He told the Guardian: "If you were building your house and the builders said it would cost 29,000 pounds and a few months later they said 'it is now 61,000 pounds' you would have every right to be angry. I hope the authorities are looking at the cost control of this project."

In a joint statement the clerk of the House of Commons, the clerk of the parliaments and the director general of the House of Commons, said: "We acknowledge that there have been estimating failures and we understand the concern of the commissions.

"In advance of tendering contracts, the initial high-level estimates were set at a lower level to avoid cost escalation from the market. Subsequent estimates, using better data and more extensive surveys, better reflect the true likelihood of the costs." Scaffolding is already being erected around the clock tower and by the end of this month the four famous clock faces will be hidden behind sheeting as work on the clock continues.

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