Truck breakdown causing traffic chaos north of Wellington

Motorists were left fuming after a major traffic jam lasted several hours and caused massive delays on State Highway 2 heading into Wellington.

The sequence of events was triggered by a truck and trailer unit, which broke down about 6.20am on Monday on SH2, heading into Wellington, just north of Petone.

The problem was compounded minutes later when three cars and a motorbike collided in a nose-to-tail in the right-hand lane just north of the truck breakdown.

The knock-on effect meant that at its peak traffic backed up about 30km to Upper Hutt, and the length of Petone's esplanade and beyond.

In some cases people faced an almost three-hour commute into the city. Even Wellington City rubbish collection was delayed by hours, even though the incident was several kilometres from the city.

NZTA said while the truck and trailer had been cleared from the scene shortly after 7am, they warned motorists that there would be significant delays.

Regional performance manager Mark Owen said even though the crash was cleared by 7.10am, traffic had already backed up, and a specialist heavy haulage vehicle had to be brought in to remove the broken down truck.

The specialist tow truck reached the site at 10am, and cleared the lane within half an hour.

"The congestion around the site contributed to the delay in the tow truck arriving on site," Owen explained of the morning's traffic troubles.

"We appreciate that being stuck in traffic is frustrating and we thank those who were inconvenienced this morning for their patience."

But that wasn't the end of it. At 9.40am a breakdown in the Arras Tunnel in the city added to delays, affecting Taranaki St traffic too, and was then cleared around 10am.

One of the unlucky commuters was bus passenger Tim Sawyer who did not make it far from his Eastbourne home in the three hours after he hopped on a 7.10am service bound for work in Wellington's CBD.

Some people jumped off the bus and headed to the train station," he said.

Sawyer said he had arranged a colleague to step into his morning meetings and was working on his laptop on the bus.

"It's somewhat of an inconvenience - you could put it that way."

By 10am, Sawyer's bus was gathering pace, and had made it to Lambton Quay.

One driver took an hour to get from the Haywards intersection to the Melling Bridge. Traffic along a huge section of SH2 at 9.15am was at a virtual standstill. Another said at 10am they were still stuck on the Wainuiomata Hill road.

Drivers were taking alternative routes through the central Hutt to avoid SH2, causing major delays in Petone and on Rutherford St.

As of 8.25am commuter Courtney Churchill said she had been in traffic for two hours.

About 9am commuter Phillip Chapman told Stuff: "The whole Hutt Valley at a stand still. A normal three-minute trip taking almost an hour, just for a break down on [the] highway 10km away."

A witness to the truck breakdown said the vehicle was heading south when smoke started to billow from the truck.

 - Stuff