The second runway at Tokyo/Narita airport moved a step closer to reality in late May when another of the holdout farmers declared he was willing to sell.

Japan's Ministry of Transport has taken the unusual step of predicting a date for opening Narita's second runway, even though two reluctant families still block its construction. The official estimate now is for the new runway to open in fiscal year 2000, which means no later than March 2001.

Of the two remaining farmers resisting the move, one farmer owns land in the middle of the proposed runway, while the other is in the setback along the edge. The land is so close to the edge, however, that construction might be able to skirt it. Airport authorities have the power to condemn land, but promised not to use it after controversial expropriations led to violent clashes in 1971.

Officials made the objectors' job easier last year when they shelved plans for a crosswind runway. Plans call now for a 2,500m parallel runway on the opposite side of the terminals from the present runway. Negotiators have been talking privately with other farmers for several years. 'It's all happening behind the scenes,' says one Japanese airline official.

The prospect of a boost in Narita's capacity has set off a scramble to clarify how the airport will assign slots when the new runway opens. Japan's MOT has not adopted Iata's slot allocation guidelines. The EU has already complained about what it calls Japan's 'discriminatory redistribution' of Narita slots to US carriers. A Japanese transport advisory council is now studying ways to make domestic slot allocations more transparent and expects to offer its proposals to the MOT.

Source: Airline Business