New Zealand's public transport networks have begun reducing services as the nation prepares to go into lockdown to try to stem the spread of coronavirus.

A day out from escalating to Covid-19 alert level 4 - which comes into effect at 11.59pm on Wednesday – the number of buses, trains and ferries across the country are being slashed.

Dozens of Wellington commuters were packed into a city-bound train this morning, despite the Government's plea for Kiwis to practice social distancing. Photo / Supplied
Dozens of Wellington commuters were packed into a city-bound train this morning, despite the Government's plea for Kiwis to practice social distancing. Photo / Supplied

Many Kiwis will soon to be unable to use public transport for essential journeys.

Public transport will remain open for those working in or accessing essential services, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed yesterday.

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This morning, Auckland Council held an emergency meeting to confirm arrangements for essential work to be undertaken during the Covid-19 crisis lockdown.

New Zealand's coronavirus lockdown will be managed by a leadership team of some of the country's top officials. That team is Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health, Sarah Stuart-Black, Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management, Mike Bush, Commissioner of Police, and Dr Peter Crabtree.

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Mayor Phil Goff says the crunch talks will include continuation of a core public transport function for essential workers.

From early Thursday morning, trains, buses and ferries contracted by Auckland Transport (AT) will also run to a reduced timetable, similar to the usual weekend service timetable.

AT earlier has already asked bus riders to get on and off using rear doors only, to limit the physical contact between customers and bus drivers.

From Thursday morning, all public transport (bus, trains and ferries) contracted by AT will be free. People should continue to tag on and off using their AT HOP card which will allow AT to monitor passenger numbers and "make fast adjustments to services if required due to changes in demand".

And from 11.59pm tomorrow, Auckland public transport services will only be available for "those working in essential services, for medical reasons, to access essential services including get to the supermarket, and to move essential goods".

Goff says it's critical that Aucklanders adhere to the new rules.

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"The lockdown that begins tomorrow night is unprecedented in our history but absolutely necessary to ensure we can shut down the route of transmission and protect our communities," he said.

"Every Aucklander must comply with the rules, stay home, self-isolate and only use public transport if needed to perform essential work, or to access essential services.

"The better we self-isolate, the sooner the Government will be able to ease some of the restrictions."

Construction on Auckland's $4.4 billion City Rail Link project has stopped immediately for a minimum of four weeks, CRL Ltd chief executive Dr Sean Sweeney announced this morning. Many project staff will be able to continue working from home, he said.

Fullers yesterday temporarily suspended all of its tourism packages and tours but at this stage says its commuter services remain unaffected.

Metlink public transport network in the Wellington region, managed by Greater Wellington Regional Council, is moving to weekend services across all public transport modes.

From today, rail services have moved to a special weekend timetable.

And from tomorrow, bus services will move to Sunday timetables.

Metlink school bus services will not run from tomorrow.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Metlink GM Scott Gallacher said customers are encouraged to continue their own physical distancing practices on all trains and buses, leaving a space next to them where they can.

However, dozens of Wellington commuters were packed into a city-bound train this morning, with many forced to stand less than half a metre from others despite the Government's plea for Kiwis to practice social distancing.

One regular commuter told the Herald he boarded the Hutt Valley Line train bound for Wellington's CBD at 7.20am from Pomare Station.

However, to his shock he said passengers were being squeezed into two carriages.

The man, who did not wish to be named, said packing passengers into just two carriages during rush hour was "insane" and a risk to public safety as the nation prepares for a lockdown to fight Covid-19.

"Most of the people are really concerned about the pandemic because the Government is saying you have to keep a distance of one or two metres," he said.

"We don't know if someone on the train had the virus? We don't know that the person sitting next to me doesn't have the virus?

"They should be concerned about keeping the public safe. They were squeezing people into two carriages."

New Zealand's coronavirus lockdown will be managed by a leadership team of some of the country's top officials. That team is Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health, Sarah Stuart-Black, Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management, Mike Bush, Commissioner of Police, and Dr Peter Crabtree.

Christchurch's Metro urban bus network is running normal weekday timetables today and tomorrow.

But from Thursday, the Environment Canterbury-run services will run to the Sunday timetable, and will be for essential travel only.

The city's Bus Interchange will be closed from Thursday and all central city services will use the Manchester St super stops instead.