The bitter dispute between Southern rail and drivers' union Aslef has been resolved. The new agreement, announced on Thursday afternoon (2 February), will bring relief to hundreds of thousands of commuters.

TUC chief Frances O'Grady said that Southern and Aslef, who represent the vast majority of drivers on the network, had reached an agreement subject to a referendum from Aslef members. She said the dispute was over and that no further industrial action was planned.

She added: "I welcome the decision of ASLEF to consult its members on the new offer that has now been made by GTR Southern. The TUC is pleased that we were able to play a part in finding a positive way forward."

Around 300,000 commuters in Surrey and Sussex have been left stranded by driver walkouts throughout 2016. On 17 January Aslef announced that further strikes planned for the end of January would be postponed while they sat down for fresh TUC peace talks with Govia Thameslink Railway, Southern's parent company.

Mick Whelan, General Secretary of Aslef, said: "I am pleased that we have finally been able to reach an agreement with the company which reflects the concerns of train drivers. I believe this deal can deliver a safer and appropriately staffed railway for passengers on Southern rail and I will be recommending it to Aslef members."

The RMT, which represents on-board train staff and just 12 drivers, was not involved in the talks. However, Southern are able to run approximately three quarters of their timetable on RMT strike days.

The RMT today announced a ballot for industrial action on Merseyrail in the North of England - also in protest over DOO trains. RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: "The union's position on Driver Only Operation is perfectly clear. We will not agree to any extensions of DOO and will fight to retain the safety critical role of the guard and to keep a guard on the train."

The shift towards DOO trains sees conductors removed from the service and responsibility for operating doors transferred to drivers. Unions have argued that DOO trains are unsafe although they are already operational on around a third of Britain's railways.

The rail watchdog released a report on 5 January declaring DOO trains provided that light visibility changes were made to certain platforms on the network. Southern had vowed to make these changes and not run any DOO trains through platforms that were not brought up to standard.

RMT station staff on the London Underground are also scheduled to strike twice between the coming Sunday and next Wednesday. They are locked in a dispute with TfL about staff numbers in Tube stations, which they claim are threadbare and compromising passenger safety.

We're live outside Congress House for the Southern rail dispute breakthrough announcement

Posted by International Business Times UK on Thursday, February 2, 2017