Scaffolders who coned off a lane of a busy Auckland arterial route at the height of this morning's commuter rush are being blamed for a five-kilometre traffic jam.
Auckland Transport says it will issue the scaffolders with a $300 non-compliance infringement notice for blocking the lane, beside the Mt Eden Village shops, well before an approved start time of 9am.
A commuter who normally catches buses from Hillsborough to Khyber Pass said he spent an hour and a half walking in pouring rain to work after seeing traffic at a standstill trying to reach Three Kings from Olsen Ave.
Although he intended catching a bus from the southern end of Mt Eden Rd, he kept walking after finding about 20 people waiting at a stop there, and more stationary traffic stretching as far as the eye could see and around a corner.
Well down the road, he decided to catch a bus, but after sitting on it for 15 minutes without moving got off and started walking again.
"I assumed there must have been some major incident holding things up," said the man, who did not want to be named.
"But when I got to the Mt Eden shops, I found there was some scaffolding and a traffic lane had been closed off."
He was particularly concerned about school students who may have been late for NCEA English and biology exams, and was unhappy neither the police nor Auckland Transport took action to divert traffic after he called them.
Teacher Michael Tarry said it took him 70 minutes to drive 2.3km along Mt Eden Rd and almost two hours to reach his school in Northcote after leaving Hayr Rd at 7.50am.
"It normally takes me about half an hour," he said.
"I saw the scaffolding and the lane blocked with road cones - I was very unimpressed."
Traffic was back to normal when the Herald visited the site later in the morning, after the cones had been pushed back to just half a metre from the kerb, leaving scaffolding rising from the gutter across three shop fronts.
A shopkeeper said Auckland Council had ordered her landlord to upgrade his verandah, but she was reluctant to give out his number.
Chad Dellow, a director of Birkenhead-based Uprite Scaffolding Ltd, said: "No comment, see you," hanging up his phone when asked about the infringement notice Auckland Transport said it would issue the company.
Cowperthwaite Roofing, to whom Uprite is contracted, did not return a call.
An Auckland Transport spokesman said one of its traffic management officials was cycling through Mt Eden Village around 7.30am when he saw the lane blocked off and started making calls..
"He said the traffic was slow, but that was all - it was moving, though slower than normal," the spokesman said.
Asked why the organisation did not take action before the situation deteriorated, he said nothing serious was picked up on the arrays of CCTV camera screens at its multi-million dollar traffic management centre on Queens Wharf.
"A few people were tweeting that their buses were delayed," he said.
"But there wasn't a traffic jam big enough that it showed up on the system."
The scaffolders had approval to close the lane from 9am until 4pm, but risked being issued with a stopwork order if they blocked the traffic again tomorrow.
He said it would not have been possible to remove the scaffolding this morning without causing more traffic problems.
An Auckland Grammar administration staff member said none of the school's students missed an NCEA exam this morning, as most lived locally.
But an Auckland Girls' Grammar staffer said two of its students missed their exams, blaming traffic delays, which were not accepted as valid excuses.
A major traffic jam caused by roadworks on Hillsborough Rd forced Lynfield College to make an urgent application to the Qualifications Authority to start an NCEA exam 15 minutes late in 2006.