The crossing where a V/Line train collided with a truck on Wednesday had been earmarked for an urgent upgrade by the State Government last year.
Colac police Sergeant Shane Howard said the 99 passengers on the train and the two drivers were lucky to be alive.
He said there could have been an extensive loss of life at the Pirron Yallock crossing on Wednesday.
“There was that opportunity, but thankfully everyone has come out alive,” Sergeant Howard said.
Sergeant Howard said those involved needed to buy Tattslotto tickets this week.
An Ambulance Victoria spokeswoman said paramedics assessed 19 people at the scene.
Eighteen people were taken to hospital, with nine taken to Geelong, four to Colac and three to Warrnambool.
Two more people were taken to an unspecified hospital.
The train’s engine and several carriages derailed after it crashed into the truck, and the heavily damaged semi-trailer came to rest beside the train.
The crash occurred at a passive level crossing with no boom gates.
The Victorian government fast-tracked $2 million in February last year for a safety upgrade at the unguarded Pirron Yallock crossing near Colac and two other country crossings identified as dangerous, but they had not yet been upgraded.
The upgrade would have been part of the $50 million Safer Country Crossings program, which aims to improve safety at 52 roads and level crossings.
The Phalps Road crossing was one of three identified as dangerous, with designs for the new crossings finished last year.
The exact cause of the incident is yet to be determined and the investigation is ongoing, however Sergeant Shane Howard said it appeared the semi-trailer had driven across in front of the Melbourne-Warrnambool passenger train.
"It's the obligation of anyone travelling along this road to stop and give way to trains,” he said.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said a full investigation into the cause of the crash would be undertaken.
"This is a traumatic and tragic incident and our thoughts are with everyone involved, their families and friends," she said.
Opposition public transport spokesman David Hodgett said Ms Allan must explain when the remaining open level crossings on lines such as Warrnambool would be either fitted with boom barriers or considered for closure.
Anyone who may have witnessed the collision who may have information should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or click here
6.05pm: V-Line has replaced its 5.50pm service from Warrnambool to Southern Cross Station with coaches.
Passengers travelling from Melbourne to Warrnambool will also travel via coaches. Customers travelling as far as Waurn Ponds can travel via a train to Geelong before boarding a coach between Geelong and Waurn Ponds.
People travelling on the train involved in the incident will be transported to Warrnambool via a coach service.
6pm: David Hodgett, the Opposition’s spokesman for public transport, has issued a statement.
“In the last full year of the Victorian Coalition Government, 2013-14, there was a blitz on making country level crossings safer,” he said.
“Eight level crossings between Geelong and Warrnambool were upgraded to include boom barriers. A further level crossing was closed.
“Labor's Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan must explain when the many remaining open level crossings on long distance lines such as Warrnambool will either be fitted with boom barriers, or after extensive community consultation and agreement, considered for closure.”
5.55pm: Sergeant Shane Howard of Colac police has addressed the media at the scene of the crash.
He said paramedics had checked all passengers as they left the train. Injuries sustained in the crash were of varying degrees.
He said all passengers were now out of the train carriages.
Police expect to remain at the scene until at least 9pm and will return in the daylight tomorrow.
The crash occurred at a rail crossing and there are no boom gates.
Sergeant Howard said the truck driver had failed to stop at the crossing for the approaching train.
“There was opportunity for extensive loss of life, but everyone has come out alive,” Sergeant Howard said.
5.45pm: Officials say the truck driver has sustained severe injuries.
Emergency services will address the media soon.
5.35pm: The Country Fire Authority and State Emergency Service are on the scene of the crash, assisting the 99 people who were travelling on the train.
Injured people will be taken to Colac hospital.
Passengers are in shock, in wet and cold conditions.
Four people are yet to leave the train.
5.15pm: Ambulance Victoria said 12 people are being treated at the scene.
Eleven are stable and one is in a critical condition.
A police spokesperson said the male truck driver has suffered serious injuries and will be flown by air ambulance to a Melbourne hospital.
One male train driver and 10 train passengers are being treated for minor injuries.
The exact cause of the incident is yet to be determined and the investigation is ongoing.
Investigators urge anyone who may have witnessed the collision to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au
The crash occurred around 3.45pm.
5pm: A passenger on the Warrnambool-bound train that has crashed near Pirron Yallock has likened the moment of impact to an earthquake.
“I was sleeping in my seat at the time in carriage A at the back of the train and I was shunted off my seat and a suitcase hit me in the face,” south-west resident Julia Thompson said.
“It felt like an earthquake. Everything was shaking and rocking.
“Then there was silence. Everyone was stunned.”
She said the truck driver had been thrown through his front windscreen and was lying on the ground next to the train.
“I stood up with some trepidation... and I could see the driver out my window,” Ms Thompson said.
She said the first few carriages had been knocked off the rails.
“The emergency crews were here very quickly,” Ms Thompson said.
“A lot of farmers came up on their quad bikes to see if they could help. They were here within seconds.”
She said everyone on the train had remained calm and people helping each other off the train and to call relatives.
She said she had seen passengers with blood on them.
An SES station had been set up nearby and they had been told buses were on the way, Ms Thompson said.
4.45pm: It is being reported that 11 people have been hurt in the incident, including one of them seriously.
An air ambulance landed at the scene just moments ago.
4.25pm: A Colac police officer has asked for people to stay away from the crash scene at Phalps Road.
“The truck has been hit by the train going over the crossing and the truck’s trailer has then hit power lines,” he said.
He said the power lines are lying in water on the ground.
Powercor is on its way.
He reported that the truck driver is conscious and breathing.
4.15pm: A train and a semi-trailer have collided near Pirron Yallock.
It is unknown how many people are injured at this stage, but the crash appears very serious.
A passenger told The Standard the accident occurred at a crossing at Pirron Yallock. She reported seeing some passengers with blood on them.
It is believed to have occurred at the Phalps Road crossing.
The train was the 1.21pm service from Melbourne to Warrnambool.
Emergency services are at the scene.
MATT NEAL, RACHAEL HOULIHAN and SIAN JOHNSON
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