Metro officials recommended yesterday keeping the subway system open later on Sunday nights, but dropped a long-debated proposal to publish a pocket-size, subway timetable.

The rail system now closes at 6 p.m. on Sundays. Under the new plan, service would be extended to midnight, the current closing hour on all other days. Because of increased costs, officials suggested delaying the move until next year.

Metro officials said they abandoned the proposal to distribute timetables because discussions with passengers showed "absolutely no perceived need" for such a printed schedule. Some officials previously argued that a timetable would be convenient, especially at times when service is relatively infrequent.

In another development, officials said they had revised subway schedules on the Red Line to cut costs. On weekends, at night and during other nonrush-hour periods, Red Line trains now run every eight minutes. The shift, expected to save nearly $1 million a year, took effect earlier this month.

The revised schedules provide less frequent service on the Red Line between the Grosvenor and Silver Spring stations, where trains previously ran every six minutes at nonrush-hour periods. But they resulted in more service between Grosvenor and Shady Grove, where trains had run every 12 minutes. Rush-hour service was not revised.

Metro General Manager Carmen E. Turner included the proposal for extended Sunday service in a series of preliminary budget recommendations for fiscal 1987, which begins July 1 of next year.

The plan, expected to cost $2.4 million a year, is to be considered by Metro's board of directors in coming months.

In recent years, Metro officials have sometimes kept the rail system open late on Sundays to accommodate travelers and shoppers during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and to provide late-night service for patrons at sporting and other events.

Passengers and organizers of special events have repeatedly asked for extended Sunday service, officials said. Some members of the board, however, have expressed concern about the proposal's cost. Ridership on weekends usually is low.

Metro officials dropped the plan to print rail timetables after discussions with three carefully selected groups, consisting of 21 subway riders.

"Trains run so frequently that it is unnecessary to provide exact departure times for specific trains," a report on the meetings said.

While rejecting the proposal, officials said they plan to publish more information about the rail system's operating hours and the frequency of service. The expanded information is to appear in a brochure called "All About Metro," which is often in short supply and is currently unavailable.

Most other rail systems in the United States provide timetables for passengers. Metro distributes timetables for bus routes.

Advocates had contended that a rail timetable would help commuters who must time a subway ride to catch a bus and those who travel at night, when service is reduced.