UK's iconic Big Ben is in need of urgent repair works, which could cost taxpayers at least £40m ($62m) and can take up to four months – the longest known stoppage in its 156-year history. The last known longest shutdown was in 1976, when repair works carried out on the clock took 26 days over a nine-month period.
According to the cross-party Commons Finance Committee's report, £4.9m would be required to prevent Parliament's Great Clock from failing to work. The committee said that the cost could rise to £40m, if underlying problems are not dealt with at the same time.
"The clock currently has chronic problems with the bearings behind the hands and the pendulum. Either could become acute at any time, causing the clock to stop – or worse," according to the Sunday Times. The report goes on to say that the Big Ben clock faces "severe metal erosion, cracks in the roof and other structural defects".
"There are major concerns that if this is not carried out within the next two to three years, the clock mechanism is at risk of failure with the huge risk of international reputational damage for Parliament," the report claimed.
The report added, if the clock-hand were to fail, it could take up to a year to repair it due to the scaffolding needed. Moreover, there is a proposed plan to repair the 315ft historical London landmark, which would get a visitor centre and a lift that would be installed as an alternative to the 334 steps at the tower.
The move to repair the clock comes just months after it was announced that taxpayers would have to shell out around £7bn for the restoration of the crumbling Palace of Westminster.
A parliamentary spokeswoman told the Sunday Times: "Committees of both houses are considering the study and will provide advice to inform the business case for how best to proceed. No decisions on works, timescales or costs have been agreed."