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The transport ministry made it official Thursday: Narita International Airport’s second runway will be extended by 2010 to increase flight capacity at the nation’s chief international gateway.

The extension is expected raise the number of flights the airport in Chiba Prefecture can handle to 220,000 per year from 200,000 now.

Under the plan, authorized by the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry, the 2,180-meter second runway will be extended northward to 2,500 meters.

The ministry initially planned to extend the runway southward, but gave up because of strong opposition from landowners there.

The extension will enable the second runway to allow jumbo jets to take off. At present, they must take off from the airport’s 4,000-meter-long first runway.

Airlines from 37 countries are hoping to get access to Narita, which is roughly 60 km east of central Tokyo, depended on its single 4,000-meter runway from its opening in 1978 until April 2002, when the shorter second runway opened.

The order to extend the second runway was made in a meeting between transport minister Kazuo Kitagawa and Masahiko Kurono, president of Narita Airport Corp.

The cost of the extension is estimated at some 33 billion yen, which is about double what was initially planned.

The minister provisionally agreed to an extension after the airport authority reported July 15 that it would be unable to persuade the landowners to go along with the initial plan.

Local governments consented to the northern extension Wednesday on condition that measures be taken to address noise issues.

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