COVID-19: Auckland Transport set to lose millions of dollars as more Kiwis work from home

We may be out of lockdown - for now at least - but it's had a lasting impact on the way we live.

It's not just international travel that's taken a hit, public transport is also struggling to get back on track.

Before COVID-19, public transport in Auckland was packed - but now trains and buses are practically empty. 

Auckland Transport says it's going to lose millions of dollars from the drop in fare revenue. 

"We're looking at quite a large revenue loss in terms of that fare revenue, circa $90 million," said group manager of metro services Stacey van der Putten. 

In Auckland, ferries are doing well with passengers back to 85 percent compared to pre-COVID levels, while bus patronage is back up to 74 percent. But it's the trains that are struggling at just over 60 percent.

In Wellington patronage is back to 86 percent for buses and trains. Meanwhile, Christchurch is at 75 percent of pre-COVID levels.

Roads across the country are back up to normal levels - with the exception of Auckland CBD.

Van der Putten says the drop is mostly due to an increase in the number of people working from home.  

"Digging into the data, people who would normally commute about five days a week are perhaps doing that three days a week and they're using that time to work from home." 

There's also been significant rail network disruption and a loss of international students.

"They [international students] attributed about 6 million passenger journeys to public transport which is quite considerable, we don't have that back," van der Putten said. 

Waka Kotahi, New Zealand's Transport Agency is plugging the funding gap for now. But public transport commentator Matt Lowrie warns if we don't use it, we could lose it.

"The worst thing we could do is cut services and make it harder to use public transport," he said. "That would slow down the recovery in getting people back on buses and trains."

But he says big projects like the City Rail Link are safe.

The newly redeveloped Britomart Station is due to be unveiled on Tuesday, and Auckland Transport is due to launch a campaign later this month, hoping people will get back onboard soon.