Elderly Britons in the North East of England have been left feeling stuck “worse than the pandemic” after bus strikes crippled the area.
Go North East bus workers went on strike after Unite revealed its members were “forced” to take action amid a pay row.
Further talks trying to avoid strike action fell through on Thursday.
A skeleton service is in place on some routes, with Unite describing the company as “grasping at straws”.
WATCH NOW: GB News discuss the impact of train strikes
Despite grave concerns, South Shields Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck said it was “not fair” that drivers in the North West are being paid more than drivers in the North East.
She added: “Obviously people are frustrated; people can’t get to work, can’t get to school.
“But I think most people, when you drill down and chat to them, they’ll say well of course, on a principle of fairness, the drivers on our buses here in the North East deserve the same pay as they do in the North West.”
However, local residents have complained about how the decision has adversely impacted them.
Linda Storey, 71, from Dunston in Gateshead, claimed it is taking its toll on her mental health.
Paul Nowak joins Unite members striking
“I’m an out-and-about person,” Storey told the BBC. “I don’t like being on my own.”
She added: “I feel depressed again. I’m very down. I cry a lot.
“This is worse for me than the pandemic was.”
Go North East is the only bus operator serving Houghton-le-Spring, near Sunderland, and there are no Metro links.
Donna Thomas, who works at the Old Rectory Community Centre, warned the situation was worse than the pandemic.
“I’m being told it is worse than Covid,” she claimed.
A generic picture of Unite members on strike
“People feel as though this is another lockdown.”
Wayne Daley, a Conservative Councillor in Northumberland, claimed the offer given to Unite sounded like a “really good deal” to most people.
He said: “There is a really good opportunity here for people to sit round the table and actually look at the future public transport.
“The Government, by scrapping HS2, are putting more money locally into public transport and quite rightly too.”
Despite “sincerely and genuinely” apologising for the disruption caused by industrial action, Unite’s regional officer Mark Sanderson said: “Our members don’t want to do this.
“They love what they’re doing, they want to get back to work, but unfortunately they have been forced into this.”
Go North East added: “We apologise for the disruption during this time, and we remain committed to reaching a solution that will bring an end to the industrial action.”