Big Ben to chime for Christmas and new year celebrations

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Big BenImage source, Getty Images

Big Ben is to temporarily chime again over the festive season.

The Great Bell, housed in the Palace of Westminster's Elizabeth Tower, will resume service from 9am on December 23 until 1pm on New Year's Day.

Its hourly bongs were controversially halted in August until 2021 to ensure the safety of workers carrying out repairs on the tower.

Keeper of the Great Clock, Steve Jaggs, said Big Ben's return would allow it to remain a "focal point" of celebrations.

He said that the chimes, most recently reactivated for Armistice Day in November, would continue to be rung for special occasions during its four-year restoration period.

Media caption,

Watch London's New Year fireworks display in full

Big Ben last fell silent in 2007 and before that, for major refurbishments between 1983 and 1985.

In operation for 157 years, the clock face and surrounding tower is currently clad in scaffolding.

"This essential programme of works will safeguard it for future generations, as well as protecting and conserving the Elizabeth Tower," Mr Jagg added.

Rising costs

In response, the House of Commons said it would look again at the duration of the project and the scope for hearing the bell's famous bongs more often.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The full splendour of Big Ben is currently concealed by scaffolding

The estimated cost of repairs have now doubled to an estimated £61m, well above the original £25m repair costs, parliamentary authorities have said.

They expressed disappointment at the spiralling bill and said it would be analysed as part of the review.