Two people have died and several others are injured after a Sydney-to-Melbourne train carrying passengers derailed in Victoria injuring several passengers.
Commuters were left trapped when the diesel locomotive and five carriages derailed near Wallan station, 45 kilometres north of Melbourne, on the North East line about 7.45pm on Thursday.
Emergency services worked late into Thursday night and rail lines between Melbourne and Sydney have been closed.
Police confirmed early Friday morning two had died, including the male driver. The two deceased were travelling in the driver's carriage.
"I imagine as a first responder who turned up it would have been looking like a horrific scene," Victoria Police Acting Inspector Peter Fusinato said.
"I'm very surprised there weren't more serious injuries ... quite a miracle, really."
There are reports one man was injured while trying to save the driver, and Insp Fusinato said he expected further stories of bravery would emerge.
About 20 people remain unaccounted for and police have asked people who left the scene without speaking to emergency services, or who bought tickets but didn't board the train, to get in touch.
The Seymour Line had a history of delays and cancellations due to an "ongoing rail equipment fault" near Wallan, according to V-Line's Twitter feed.
"Due to an investigation with NSW Train Link service near Wallan, all Seymour, Shepparton and Albury train services will be replaced by road coaches until further notice," V-Line said on Friday.
"Customers travelling between Donnybrook and Southern Cross may consider using Metropolitan services between Craigieburn and Southern Cross to complete their journey."
At least three helicopters were deployed to a scene the CFA described as "very chaotic".
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau confirmed 160 passengers were on-board the train and some had been injured.
A man in his 60s was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in a stable condition with an upper-body injury while 11 others were taken to local hospitals with minor injuries.
Train Running Late
The train, which had left Central Station in Sydney at 7.40am, had been due to arrive at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne at 6.30pm.
It was running more than two hours late at the time of the crash and passengers said the driver had been trying to make up time.
Passenger Rob Jennings told The Sydney Morning Herald that passengers were tossed around during the minute-long derailment.
"It just veered off, and all the carriages smashed into one another," he said.
"People were tossing around … there was some screaming — everyone was just grasping on, some in the brace position, preparing for the possibility of something worse."
All passengers who were able to walk from the train were taken to the Wallan McDonald's and BP Truckstore area, which was being used as a triage centre.
Photos posted on Twitter showed passengers standing next to the crumpled train with their luggage.
One passenger described the chaos as the train "suddenly slid into a fast stop".
"Carriage at an angle stuff flying everywhere. Tray tables went flying," Dr Scott Rickard said on Twitter.
"Stuff flew everywhere. Carriages crumpled at edges. We walked out. Most people able to walk out.
"We're in a bit of shock, but OK. Drinking cuppas now.
"Fortunately only a few people injured in our carriage," she added.
Canberra man James Ashburner, 69, estimated the train had been travelling at 100-odd km/h when "things went strange".
"There was a lot of noise and suddenly there was dust, the train was swaying a lot," he said.
"A couple of people had been standing in the aisle and they really went flying … For some minutes we were just milling about seeing who needed assistance and what sort of assistance."
At the triage centre, a Sydney couple who had taken the train to visit their son in Melbourne told AAP the tragedy had been terrifying.
"You just hang on for grim death. You're being thrown around, the things going along tilting over and all you can look out the window and just see dirt and debris and stuff flying up past the windows and the track itself is just twisted and bent," the man said.
"It probably went about 150 metres before it stopped, there were carriages going sideways – pretty horrifying."
The man revealed train staff had handed out complaint cards to passengers moments before the derailment, after lengthy delays caused by ongoing problems with signals on the line.
Decades long neglect
The V-Line Seymour Line had warned of long delays due to several faults at Wallan, including "an ongoing rail equipment fault" and "track fault". Alerts from as far back as February 9 showed there was an issue.
Melbourne City councillor Rohan Leppert said it was the second derailment on the Albury line in three weeks.
"The decades long neglect of this regional rail route is criminal," Mr Leppert said.
In January, a northbound freight train derailed near Wodonga in northeast Victoria. A V-Line Albury-to-Melbourne passenger train then collided with a wagon.
It is understood the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is in charge of the rail maintenance, while the train was managed by Transport for NSW.
"We are working hard to support emergency services, NSW TrainLink and investigators to respond to this tragic accident," ARTC said in a statement on Thursday night.