METROPOLITAN Line users are facing years of disruption and weekend closures after it was revealed last week that upgrade work will take until 2018 to complete.
Transport for London have published their timetable of works which involves the replacement of more than 300 kilometres of track, on the Met, Circle and District Lines.
New signalling equipment for the Met Line must also be installed to replace current equipment which is more than 50 years old.
Altogether TfL estimate the works will take seven years, with a target date of 2018 set, further away than previously thought.
For the works to be carried out, it gives little option but more more weekend closures, which have proved painful for residents across Hillingdon, especially those wishing to access Uxbridge shopping centre, with traders also affected.
Windows of just four hours, between 1.30am and 5.30am exist for engineering works overnight, which is simply not enough for complex and large scale works to be implemented. This means years of weekend closures, which give 50 hours of uninterrupted access to the tracks, are on the cards to get the job done.
Transport for London will make a decision on awarding the contract to supply the new signalling system later this year. They say the contract 'is being let on the basis that closures must be kept to a minimum'.
John Randall, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, said: "It is a huge problem and seems to be endless, we have been putting up with weekend closures for two years already. It is becoming a big concern, as one of the problems is that the replacement bus service is very slow. I can't think it would encourage people to come into Uxbridge on the weekend, and smaller centres like Ruislip Manor will also be badly hit."
A more radical option, still being considered by TfL, is to look at block closures. This would mean a short sharp option of closing the line for weeks and even months at a time, to get work over with in one swoop.
Such a system is commonplace in foreign metro systems such operated in France and Spain. It was also tested on the Circle and Hammersmith and City lines last Summer when several stations were closed for three weeks.
All options are under consideration, and will only be finalised once engineering contracts are awarded. TfL said that currently there are no confirmed plans for block closures on the Metropolitan Line.
The news comes in the same week that Mayor of London Boris Johnson personally apologised to the Gazette's sister paper, the Harrow Observer, for increased delays that passengers have experienced over the past four months. Problems began when new air conditioned trains and new timetables were introduced to the network.
He said: "There will be teething problems with a new service. We have to upgrade the signalling on the Met line. I know that this is tough but the improvements will be worth it. There needs to be more communication about this. But I'm sorry you are experiencing this."
The Met Line was recently outed statistically as London's least reliable line, and a Freedom of Information request made by the Gazette revealed there were 725 delays between November and January, up 15 per cent on last year.
There are weekend closures planned for the Metropolitan Line this month. While Uxbridge will be unaffected, the line will travel no further than Harrow-on-the-Hill on March 12 and 13, and 19 and 20. Passengers wishing to make it into London will have to catch buses from Harrow to Wembley Park where they can pick up the Jubilee Line. The same closures will be in affect on April 9 and 10.
At present, TfL's works calendar shows no detail beyond those dates.