Liffe's early trading plan hits buffers

Liffe has put on hold a plan to open half-an-hour earlier in the morning because there is inadequate demand for it - and the creaking public transport system couldn't bring the brokers in at that time, anyway.

Daniel Hodson, chief executive at Liffe, said yesterday that the market had undertaken a study to see whether opening at 7 instead of 7.30am might enable it to compete more aggressively with continental futures and options markets like Paris and Frankfurt. Mr Hodson said: "After studying the idea we decided that there was no market demand for opening at 7am. Also, there was the additional cost of opening half-an-hour earlier, and the transport question." Mr Hodson himself is keenly aware of the "transport question", as are the 3,000-odd brokers who commute into Liffe's City dealing rooms in Cannon Street every day. He lives in Petersfield, Hampshire, and the first train available to him is the 5.50am, which gets into London at 6.50am.

"That means I would get into the office just after 7am," Mr Hodson said.

There is also the question of the deteriorating public transport infrastructure in the South-east of England. Last week South West Trains, which runs services into Waterloo, enraged City commuters by cancelling 30 trains a day because it had sacked too many drivers since privatisation.

All of which adds backing to Mr Hodson's decision to open at 7.30am. This shows up the key handicap that London suffers as the claimant to the title of Europe's financial capital.

Frankfurt has a gleaming underground system which operates with typical Teutonic efficiency. The Parisian Metro is subsidised so heavily by the French taxpayer that everyone gets to travel free on Fridays.

There is one area at least in which Liffe can claim European leadership.

It is currently putting the final touches to "the biggest bog in Europe", a cloakroom in Cannon Street to serve its 3,000 brokers.

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