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Crane installation kicks off final stages of the Elizabeth Tower conservation project

17 March 2022 (updated on 17 March 2022)

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An important milestone will be reached on the Elizabeth Tower in the coming weeks as the gantry – which has supported the complex scaffolding structure and protected the rest of the Palace of Westminster during the conservation project - is set to be removed.

Expert teams are due to carry out this work using specialist cranes from 24th March. By May, the Elizabeth Tower will be free of scaffolding, nearly four years after the entire structure was first fully enclosed.

The team will work to remove the gantry in stages, using similar methods to when the structure was first installed in 2017. An initial crane lift will take place from in front of the Elizabeth Tower, from 24th March until 6th April. Then, from 7th to 24th April, a larger crane will be positioned on Bridge Street to remove the remaining elements. The second crane lift will require the closure of Bridge Street to all traffic between those dates, though pedestrian access will be maintained.

The conservation project remains on schedule and in the coming months, the bells – including Big Ben itself – will be reconnected to the original Victorian clock mechanism, ringing out permanently once again. Once the restoration has completed in the Summer and the site is cleared, Parliament will resume ownership of the building and start to prepare its internal spaces for future use, handing over to teams delivering the visitor experience. Preparations, including the installation and testing of exhibitions and tour routes, are expected to complete in the Winter.

Internal works progress

As exterior works draw to a close, important work is still underway inside the building. Expert clock mechanics have been installing the Great Clock’s original Victorian mechanism for a number of months and important components are due to be fitted in the coming weeks. Dusty works are still ongoing in the ventilation shaft of the Tower, which has required the hands of the West Dial to be kept stationary. This is to prevent damage to both the hands and mechanism itself, though Parliament expects the clock dial to enter operational use towards the end of Spring once these works have completed.

In addition to the works taking place to the Great Clock, other elements are progressing well across the Tower, including the installation of key infrastructure components and fire safety systems - ensuring that this historic building conforms to current building regulations and is fit for 21st century use. The Ayrton Light – which shines when either House is sitting – completed structural repairs last year and has now received its new energy-efficient light fitting. This ‘greener’ Ayrton Light will be connected to the power supply later in the Spring, ready to shine across Westminster once more.

The final months are among the most important in this restoration project. These are delicate works, which must all be delivered at a great height, in a confined space, and within the middle of a busy, working Parliament. Parliament’s overriding priority is the completion of the project to schedule, ensuring the safety and security of the structure and the teams involved.

Road closures

To maintain the safety of those in the immediate area, there may be some temporary disruption to routes into and around the Palace, in addition to external road closures on Bridge Street. These diversions are necessary to allow for the safe lifting of the cranes, though pedestrian access to the Estate won’t be affected.

Big Ben is coming back. For the latest updates, visit the website or subscribe to the Elizabeth Tower newsletter.

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Image: ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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Join Fred Mills inside the Elizabeth Tower as he reveals the restoration work taking place, presented by B1M

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