A renewable energy expert says the decision to de-electrify KiwiRail will more than negate all the emissions reductions from all the electrical vehicles in New Zealand.
Last year, KiwiRail announced it would move back to diesel-powered trains on the main trunk line.
KiwiRail has argued that going all-diesel is better for the environment, because it will be better equipped to take freight than trucks on the roads.
Ralph Sims of Massey University said the rail network would generate 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide more per year by de-electrifying - more than cancelling out the 9000 tonnes saved by using 3000 electric vehicles.
He said the rest of the world was decarbonising.
"This seems to be going in the opposite direction and would more than negate all the savings of all the electric vehicles that we have running around New Zealand at the moment."
Professor Sims said since 1990 transport emissions had risen by 45 percent, and New Zealand was going the wrong way.