Metro and Qatar — yes, the country — had appeared to strike a deal late Tuesday to extend train service until 12:30 a.m. for Thursday night’s Game 4 of the NHL Eastern Conference finals. By Wednesday afternoon, Metro said there was no late-night service sponsor for the showdown between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans said negotiations continued Wednesday night, however, as officials attempted to work out a deal where Qatar would give the Downtown Business Improvement District $100,000, and the BID would provide the same amount to pay for trains to run an extra hour. The arrangement would address indemnification-related concerns Qatari officials had raised in the Metro contract, and eliminate the need to hold a full Metro board vote on the deal. Officials had also expressed concerns that Metro was not authorized to accept a payment from a foreign government.
“Metro is entering into the contract with the BID, not with Qatar,” said Evans, asked how the arrangement was different. “Late-night service is very important and I’m happy that the downtown bid was able to assist in making this happen as well as the government of Qatar.”
Downtown BID President Neil Albert stressed that a formal agreement has yet to be made.
“We haven’t resolved that issue as yet,” he said. “Certainly a third party has been involved in trying to figure out a way to make this happen.” Albert declined to name the party.
A day after Evans said Qatar had stepped up to provide $100,000 for an extra hour of late-night service, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel was blunt about the state of affairs.
“There was no agreement. The parties were unable to come to terms,” he said.
Metro said in a tweet Tuesday morning it continues to search for a late-night service sponsor, and that statement remained “operative” on Wednesday, according to the agency. Evans elaborated on the complications with Qatar in an interview with The Washington Post’s sports team.
“It’s not off,” Evans said. “We’re still negotiating. They hit a snag, though.”
Metro closes at 11:30 p.m. on weeknights. Under a new policy set by Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld following SafeTrack, the year-long repair program, any extensions of service require a sponsor to cover the $100,000-per-hour cost of running trains. Wiedefeld has argued that because of the system’s budget woes, the agency should not be expected to pay for special event service, which sometimes results in monetary losses. (The $100,000 fee can be fully refunded if Metro ends up making a profit.)
Evans told a reporter that the issue with Qatar stemmed from an indemnification-related contract change the country’s officials had sought.
“[Qatari officials] signed the deal and sent it back, but they had made a change,” Evans said. “Metro can’t agree to any changes in the standard contract without approval from the Metro board. We’d have to go back to the board and have a meeting between now and tomorrow. They’re trying to figure out some way to deal with that, so it’s not over, but it’s not on either.”
An inquiry emailed to Qatar’s Government Communications Office was not returned on Wednesday.