After nearly five years under wraps, is Big Ben ready to chime again?

Big Ben will ring again from early next year as the restoration of Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower nears completion.

The refurbishment of the London landmark, which has seen costs alread spiral to at least £80 million, was originally expected to be finished this year but was delayed as the COVID-19 crisis held up work.

The famous bell has been largely silent since 2017 as repairs to the clock and to the Elizabeth Tower which houses it, have meant it only being reconnected for significant occasions.

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It is the largest and most complex conservation project in the tower’s history. The repairs stretch from the gilt cross and orb at its tip, to the bottom of its 334-step staircase.

The iconic building sits on a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In a statement, UK Parliament authorities said the conservation project was due to be completed by the second quarter of 2022.

Over the next 12 months, it said, the scaffolding will be removed, the Great Clock will be reinstalled and Big Ben’s “world-famous chimes” will be heard again.

The “complex task” of installing the restored clock mechanism would begin this summer.

“Following years of painstaking conservation work, the clock hands, now resplendent in their original Victorian colour scheme, will be added to the clock dials, with the restored mechanism returning to the tower later in the year,” the statement said.

Early next year the bells, including Big Ben, will be reconnected to the original Victorian clock mechanism “and will ring out across Westminster once again”.

Then the gantry, which has protected the Palace of Westminster throughout the works and supported the complex scaffolding structure, will be removed before the site is fully cleared ahead of summer 2022.

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