The 177-year-old Elizabeth Tower in London is an iconic structure. It houses Big Ben on which restoration work began in 2017. The completion of the repair work was expected to be by the end of next year. However, a detailed inspection of its internal systems revealed a not-too-happy picture. It suffered damage from German bombing during World War II. The tower survived the bombing, but there was damage to its roof and dials. That happened during an air raid in May 1941. Parliamentary officials have disclosed these details. Big Ben fell silent when restoration work began on it in 2017.

There is a steep increase in the cost of repair. The initial estimate was £18.6m ($24m) and the revised figure now is nearly £80m ($104m). This is attributed to the discovery of asbestos inside it, as well as the second world war bomb damage and extensive pollution.

The Guardian quotes Ian Ailles, the director-general of the House of Commons as saying that the task of restoring the tower “had been more complex than we could have anticipated.” He explained that the full implication came to light only after the scaffolding was up.

It seems there is extensive corrosion and the presence of asbestos in unexpected places. These have to be set right, hence there is an escalation in costs.

Big Ben is the identity of London

The Elizabeth Tower houses the Big Ben. The sound of its gongs reverberate for miles and the tower stands tall at 321 feet. It has been a national symbol since 1856.

In 2017, it was decided to service the mechanical clock and complete the work by 2021. However, once the work began the full implications came to the surface. World War II had left its imprints on it, as did the climate over nearly 177 years. It is not easy to assess the extent and nature of damage to portions that are not readily visible.

Subsequent surveys revealed the presence of extensive corrosion apart from asbestos in the belfry. There were also internal damages like broken glass in the clock dials etcetera.

The Guardian adds that restoration work began in 2017. It involved repair to the iconic structure from the tip of the cross to the bottom of its 334-step staircase. The exercise is massive and hundreds of specialist craftspeople are participating in the project. They belong to different trades and are experts in their professions.

In view of the extent of work, the budget would need revision. The increase is because of factors that have been revealed after a detailed study and the authorities hope to complete the task within the revised estimates. They have conveyed this to the House of Commons and House of Lords.

Repairing Big Ben would be a costly affair

According to The BBC, The Elizabeth Tower, earlier called the Clock Tower, got the new name in 2012. It was to mark the diamond jubilee of the Queen in 2012. Big Ben is a part of this tower and it signed off in 2017. Repairing this clock has its unique problems. Its weight is 12 tonnes and it requires a complete overhaul. Respective agencies will undertake that work.

There are four dials on the external surface and they consist of 1,296 individual pieces of glass. Each of them needs replacement. Moreover, there are hundreds of stones in the clock, which require recarving. Obviously, it would be a long-drawn exercise.

Londoners wait to hear the gong of Big Ben

To the locals and tourists, London is epitomized by the gongs of Big Ben. It is in a prominent location and is an old monument that survived World War II. However, it is now silent because of repairs. The design of the iconic structure relied on technology, which is outdated. Hence, there is an escalation of cost. The world waits to hear the gongs once again.