The Spanish train crash is the worst the country has experienced since a terrible three-train accident in a tunnel in Leon province in 1944.
Due to heavy censorship at the time, the exact death toll for the Leon disaster has never been established. The official figure was given as 78 dead, but it is thought that as many as 250 may have been killed.
There was another serious accident in Spain 1972 when a Madrid to Cadiz express collided head-on with a local train on the outskirts of Seville in the south west of the country. A total of 77 people died, with more than 100 injured.
The Madrid train bombings of March 2004 produced a death toll of 191- but this was a terrorist outrage and not an accident. There were 10 explosions aboard four commuter trains, with the attacks being directed by an al Qaida-inspired terrorist cell.
The latest incident comes less than two weeks after six people were killed and scores injured in a train crash just south of Paris.
Recent serious train crashes in Europe include one in February 2010 in Buizingen in Belgium which claimed the lives of 18 people, a September 2006 crash of a magnetic levitation train on a test track in the Emsland area of Germany which killed 23 people, and a derailment of a packed train outside the Montenegro capital of Podgorica in January 2006 in which 46 people died.
In Britain, no passenger has been killed in a train accident since 84-year-old Margaret Masson from Glasgow died following the Virgin West Coast Pendolino train derailment at Grayrigg in Cumbria in February 2007.
In terms of deaths, the worst rail crashes in recent times in the UK were outside Paddington in west London in October 1999 when 31 people died in a two-train collision after one of them had gone through a red light, and at Clapham in south London in December 1988 when 35 people were killed in a three-train crash.
Britain's worst peace-time crash was in 1952 at Harrow and Wealdstone in north west London when 112 people died in a three-train disaster.
The worst rail disaster in Britain was at Quintinshill near Gretna Green in Scotland in 1915 during the First World War in a multiple-train smash in which a troop train caught fire, killing more than 220 people.