Japan’s government has given up trying to negotiate a deal with landowners to lengthen a runway at busy Tokyo Narita airport and is going ahead with the extension on its own.

The transport ministry says it has approved Narita International Airport Corporation’s proposal to extend the 2,180m (7,150ft)-long second runway to 2,500m. The runway was initially due to have been 2,500m in length, but plans were scaled back after a small group of farmers refused to sell required land. Although agreement has still not been reached with the farmers, Narita’s operator has decided to extend the runway northward, which is opposite to the originally intended direction, on land that is already owned by the government.

The extension will help increase total aircraft movements to 220,000 a year from the existing 200,000. The extension, which is expected to cost ¥33 billion ($295 million), is scheduled for completion in 2010 although the government says this target could be brought forward.

Narita opened as Japan’s main international gateway in 1978. Original plans called for it to have three runways, but until 2002 it operated with only one as agreement could not be reached on land purchases. Landowners are angry over the way their neighbours were forced out by the government when planning for the airport began in the 1960s.

The second runway opened in April 2002 but is not able to handle all aircraft that serve the airport because it is too short. The airport’s primary runway is 4,000m long.

Meanwhile, Japan’s two main airlines have agreed to use the new Kobe airport when it opens early next year. All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines say they will serve six Japanese cities from Kobe. Kobe’s airport, which is being built on reclaimed land, is due to open with a single runway on 16 February 2006, around 35 years after it was first proposed.

Source: Airline Business