Traffic chaos is building across Auckland, with crashes and a breakdown causing delays as strike action halts train services.

Auckland Transport warned commuters to expect heavy traffic today and allow for longer travel times due to train strikes.

Three separate incidents are also causing traffic to back up on Auckland's Southwestern and Northern Motorways.

A multiple-vehicle crash on the Northwestern Motorway after Great North Rd travelling westbound was blocking several lanes just after 5pm. The crash has since been cleared but NZTA said traffic remained slow in the area.

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NZTA also warned commuters to expect delays, after a second multiple-vehicle crash blocked the right lane of the Southwestern Motorway heading towards the airport, just before Walmsley Rd.

The crash has traffic backed up to the Maioro St onramp.

Traffic heading towards the airport on the Southwestern Motorway at Puhinui Rd. Photo/NZTA
Traffic heading towards the airport on the Southwestern Motorway at Puhinui Rd. Photo/NZTA

Drivers heading north out of the city can also expect delays after an earlier breakdown blocked lane one of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The incident has caused traffic to back up to the CBD.

The situation was not much better for commuters heading south on the Northern Motorway, with traffic heavy at Tristram Ave and Esmonde Rd.

Traffic is also heavy heading southbound along the Northern Motorway from Esmonde Rd. Photo/NZTA
Traffic is also heavy heading southbound along the Northern Motorway from Esmonde Rd. Photo/NZTA

Members of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union began strike action at 2am today, which will continue for 24 hours and affect between 30,000 and 35,000 commuters.

The members are against the decision of Transdev, which runs the trains on Auckland Transport's rail network, to introduce a driver-only service, which would do away with train managers.

Organiser John Kerr told Rachel Smalley this morning the train managers are safety-critical staff who don't just operate the doors.

He said they're there as a first responder if there's a medical emergency, a track-side incident or an incident on the train and that it was their job to look after the passengers.

Kerr told the Herald Transdev was refusing to back down on its proposal, despite mediated negotiations. He regretted the inconvenience the strike would cause, but said workers would not stand back and watch what he called "an attack on the safety culture of our railway".

Rail and Maritime Transport Union advocate for the workers Wayne Butson said they had received a number of emails from Aucklanders expressing their concerns about Transdev's plans.

"People know they're safer when there's a train manager on board, watching the doors and available to intervene if they have trouble with other passengers.

"They understand that rail workers are acting in everyone's best interests.

"It's no easy decision to take industrial action this close to Christmas, but our members will not compromise on the safety of passengers or the rail network."

Butson said the rail workers would meet with their employer on December 15 and were hopeful that the conversation would be constructive and ensure the health and safety of both passengers and workers.

This morning, chief executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce Michael Barnett said employers would likely have to accept some workers would be late to work due to the strike.

"They should think about some sort of flexibility - rather than making it a stressful experience maybe they should let people work from home."

Barnett also noted the unfortunate timing of the strike.

"We're heading into that couple of weeks before Christmas and school holidays have started, too. It's a bit of a harsh call for retail workers."

Despite this, Barnett thought the union members' reasoning behind the strike would likely resonate with many users of public transport.

"Having those people in the train carriages is a sense of security for me, so I would expect there would be some sympathy for train workers."