IT is not our place to take sides in an industrial dispute. The bus drivers who began a seven-day walkout yesterday that will affect services in Darlington, County Durham, Tees Valley, east Cleveland and parts of North Yorkshire will feel they have genuine grievances that have not been addressed.

At the same time, the management at Arriva will feel they have made a series of concessions that should have resulted in the strike being called off.

We make no judgement on the merit of those claims. However, we note with dismay the impact that the strike is already having on some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

The elderly and impoverished are more reliant on public transport than any other part of the population, and in large parts of our region, the bus network is the only means of public travel.

With very few buses running this week, people have had to cancel vital medical appointments and reschedule trips that had been planned months ago. We know of people who are worried about whether they will be able to buy food before the weekend.

That cannot be right, and therefore we urge both sides of the dispute to redouble their efforts to come up with a compromise agreement that would result in an early end to the strike.

The more entrenched the competing positions are, the less likely a swift resolution becomes. And the longer the strike goes on, the more our region’s regular bus users suffer.