The government is ready to allocate money in fiscal 2002 for a new railway track that would reduce the time to get to Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture from Nippori station in Tokyo by 15 minutes, Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Chikage Ogi said Tuesday.

The proposal was unveiled during the minister’s meeting with Chiba Gov. Akiko Domoto, who called for measures to increase the use of the already busy airport that serves as the international flight hub for the Tokyo metropolitan area.

According to Ogi, the project will cost 160 billion yen and entail the construction of a 19.1-km rail line from Imba-nihonidai Station to Narita airport for use by Keisei Electric Railway Co. Construction is expected to begin next fiscal year and finish in fiscal 2010.

The new line will cut travel time between Nippori Station and Narita to 36 minutes, ministry officials said.

Ogi also said the central government will launch a feasibility study for an underground concourse to link Tokyo station and Nihonbashi station through the Toei Asakusa subway line, which also leads to Narita airport.

Ogi’s measures are widely seen as part of an attempt by the central government to get Chiba Prefecture’s cooperation in returning international status to Haneda airport, which is mainly dedicated to domestic flights. In exchange, Tokyo would help improve access to Narita.

Domoto, however, told reporters that the Haneda issue was not discussed, adding that improving Narita’s status as an international airport takes top priority.

Chiba Prefecture has long opposed the idea of reopening Haneda airport to international flights because it might detract from business at Narita, which is about an hour away from the heart of Tokyo.

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