A MAJOR overhaul of Madrid's metro means the main line to the airport is likely to be shut for much of this year, potentially leading to havoc during rush hours.
Lines 1 and 8 badly needs a drastic maintenance operation, but this is impossible without closing sections of the track all summer.
The shutdown will start on May 21, and Line 1 will be out of action until September 30 – the height of the holiday season when Madrid residents most want to catch planes and trains to coastal and country destinations.
Line 1 cuts right through the city centre from the Plaza de Castilla, through the Gran Vía, Puerta del Sol and onto Vallecas – and is the only link to the central Atocha station, where high-speed and cross-country trains run to and from.
Ironically, it will be easier to get to Atocha via the outer suburban lines – the Cercanías – than from anywhere close to the city centre.
Later in the year, or early in 2017, Line 1 will need to close again for some weeks to finish the work.
After the summer once Line 1 has been temporarily reopened, Line 8 to Adolfo Suárez-Barajas airport will close for repairs.
Line 8 from the airport runs via Campo de las Naciones and Mar de Cristal – where those wishing to go to the IFEMA international trade fair complex need to change for Line 4 – and ends at Nuevos Ministerios, which hooks up to Line 6 and Line 10 to reach other parts of the city, including the centre.
The airport line starts at the town of Barajas, which the terminal is named after, but which is not within walking distance even without suitcases.
Madrid city council says it will make sure Line 8 is not closed over January and February next year, when the world-acclaimed global tourism trade fair, FITUR, takes place at the IFEMA.
Most of the work involved centres on repairing tunnels and air-vents, and in the case of Line 1, fitting overhead electricity lines.
Line 1 was built 97 years ago and, although it is in safe enough conditions to be used, is in a poor state after decades of neglect.