THE horrific collision between a truck and train in Dandenong South that killed one man and left nine more in hospital has cast further doubts over the safety of Victoria's level crossings.
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Man killed in train and truck collision
A horror rail smash involving a truck in Melbourne's south-east has left one dead and up to 13 others injured.
The train, with about 30 passengers, was travelling at an estimated 115km/h between Dandenong Station and Lynbrook Station when it and the semitrailer collided. The front two carriages jack-knifed before grinding to a halt about 200 metres from the crossing.
The truck was obliterated, but the 69-year-old fresh-food delivery driver from Narre Warren survived. Rescuers dragged a 43-year-old man from Cranbourne West who was in cardiac arrest from the train wreckage but were unable to revive him.
Despite the death of a driver at the crossing four years ago, and several near misses, the Abbotts Road intersection was only rated 144 on the Transport Department's list of priority crossings used to classify safety improvements.
At the scene, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill said all safety warnings were operating correctly at the crossing when the crash happened at 11.40am on Saturday.
''The bells were ringing. The boom gates were down. For some unknown reason the truck has travelled through the boom gate [when] it is already down … It has T-boned the first carriage,'' he said.
The truck driver was interviewed by Dandenong police, and Detective Sergeant Rohan Courtis said he had been released pending summons.
''He is pretty upset in relation to what has happened. He has been very co-operative, has provided a sample of his blood voluntarily, and he has offered an explanation to some degree about what happened.'' Police seized the man's phone for examination.
Rescuers continued to scour the crash site on Saturday night for bodies, amid confusion about exactly how many passengers were on board.
The train driver was transferred to The Alfred hospital with serious injuries. Another eight people were in a stable condition in Frankston and Dandenong hospitals. Others were treated at the scene for minor injuries.
Angelo Galluccio, owner of a restoration business next to the crossing, said the impact was like a ''massive sonic boom''. ''The factory was shaking. You could just hear the train derailing and going through the gravel.''
Last week, Fairfax revealed a significant increase in near misses between trains and vehicles at Victorian level crossings, with Dandenong recording the highest number of incidents.
Across the state, there were 170 near misses in 2011-12, compared with 146 the previous year. The number of incidents involving trains and track-side workers at level crossings went from 160 to 290 in that time.
Dandenong recorded nine near misses between vehicles and trains, Noble Park seven, and Springvale four, leading to concerns of increasing motorist frustration along the heavily congested Dandenong corridor.
After speaking with emergency workers at the scene on Saturday, Premier Ted Baillieu and Transport Minister Terry Mulder said they would await the findings of a police probe before making a decision on the deadly crossing.
''What we have seen here is a terrible tragedy, but it's quite extraordinary that more lives were not lost,'' Mr Baillieu said.
Mr Mulder said the Dandenong South crossing had not been considered particularly dangerous. ''Compared with other crossings, it would not look as high risk as others on the metropolitan train network,'' he said.
Metro Trains chief executive Andrew Lezala said the train driver would not have had time to alert passengers. He said the Cranbourne line would be closed for up to five days, with buses replacing trains during the busy Spring Racing Carnival period.
Labor has criticised the Baillieu government over its funding of safety improvements to level crossings, particularly the decision to upgrade one in Mr Mulder's electorate, which ranked only 223rd on the list of priorities.
Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews would not comment further on Saturday, saying: ''Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those impacted by this tragic accident.''
In April 2006, two people were killed when a train and truck collided at a level crossing near Ballarat that had no lights or boom gates. In June 2007, 11 people died, including four children, in Victoria's worst rail disaster in 50 years when a truck ploughed into a V/Line passenger train at a crossing north of Kerang.