CALLS are mounting for Uber to return to Southend and join forces with local taxi firms to offer easier transport links to residents.

The global taxi giant launched its “local cab” scheme in Benfleet and Canvey last week, which allows passengers to book a trip with “local taxi companies” via the Uber app.

Now, residents are calling for a similar service in Southend.

Four years ago Southend Council, then run by the Conservatives, banned Uber from operating in the area.

“When we used to have Uber in this area it improved the situation immeasurably,” Barry Jones, 51, of Leigh, said.

“It’s quick, efficient, reasonably priced, and safe. Unfortunately, whenever the subject is raised the organised traditional taxi collective rallies round to spread scare stories to save their own hides.”

“Not having the service is hurting the night-time economy, as people won’t go on nights out there as it’s hard to get a cab back.

He added: “Denying Uber to the area is surely a restrictive practice? Closed shops aren’t very modern Britain.”

Harriet O’Brien, 58, of Leigh added: “I think it would be great to have Uber here. Our taxi services are overstretched at the moment and often you have to wait a long time to get one.”

Both residents say they would like to see Uber’s “local cab” scheme which has now been launched in more than 40 locations across the UK replicate in Southend.

The scheme means anyone using the Uber app in Benfleet and Canvey will now be presented with the “local cab” option, which will connect them to Benfleet-based ABC Taxis.

Southend council leader Ian Gilbert said there were no concrete plans to bring the firm back in but added he would be willing to give a fair hearing to any future proposals.

“Things have moved in in terms of the way Uber operates since they were banned from Southend in 2018,” Mr Gilbert said, referring to improvements to driver vetting and safety the firm has made in recent years.

“If Uber were to apply for a licence to operate here we would give them due consideration, same as any other firm.”