Auckland's newest tunnel has had its share of sightseers keen to get an early glimpse of the underground structure linking the city's northwestern and southwestern motorways together.

The Waterview tunnel, which cost an estimated $1.4 billion and took five years to complete, opened to the public in the early hours of this morning.

A few Aucklanders took the road in the early hours to give the tunnel a test drive.

Debbie Harlow and her daughter Stacey took a drive through about an hour after it opened.

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"It was an impulsive idea to go through as one of the first and while there wouldn't be so many people doing so."

Harlow said it was well worth the trip.

"I think the lead into the tunnel was beautifully laid out and we're excited to be able to now get from south to west in under 20 minutes, non-peak hour. It's a great achievement by NZTA and hopefully it helps to ease Auckland's congestion even just a little."



However, NZ Transport Agency Auckland Highway Manager Brett Gliddon urged people, if they could wait, to leave the sightseeing for a few weeks.

"The tunnel will be here for a while, don't all rush and see it. You don't have to do it right now, can defer it for a week or two."

Gliddon said the first cars to drive through the tunnel as it opened early this morning just happened to be there at the time.

"A few surprised people just happened to be driving along the motorway," he said. "They were in the right place, at the right time, it's pretty historic."

He said as the cones lifted, the five or six cars in the area at the time were given a police escort.

"We wanted to control that first traffic, the cops just took them through at the speed limit, it all went really smoothly."

The first cars to travel through the Waterview tunnel follow behind a Police escort. Photo / Supplied
The first cars to travel through the Waterview tunnel follow behind a Police escort. Photo / Supplied

Gliddon said the overall operation to get the tunnel opened had required a significant amount of teamwork and logistical planning - but it had all gone smoothly.

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"Overnight we lifted the closures on both tunnels, first at 12.47, then the southbound one a couple of hours later."

He said since the tunnel opened there had been a steady flow of traffic.

"Not a huge amount, nowhere near the capacity and it's running fine at the moment."

Gliddon said everyone was behaving and some were even driving slower than the speed limit.

"The average is about 60 kilometres an hour...as people get used to it, just people sightseeing."

He expected traffic would pick up tomorrow as people went back to work after the weekend.

"It will be really busy, it's hard to know how it will perform in the first day. People are going to be working out if it's going to work for them or not.

"All we are asking is that people be patient."

Gliddon said it was still early to say exactly how much time people could save, but said it would benefit lots of people, from those travelling south to north, people going to the airport and those travelling from the west.

"Also the inner-city suburbs will save a lot of the rat running, through local streets and will see a reduction in traffic."