The train is one of the new Class 730 bi-mode 'Alvia' units which are fitted with ETCS, and the accident is the first involving a European high speed line. However, it was later revealed that ETCS was not fitted to this section of line."ETCS" is European for augmented Positive Train Control, which is an attempt to create a continent-wide method of pacing and spacing trains, and bi-mode is an Iberian update on Joe and the Sputniks.
Spain's last major rail disaster was in 1972 when 77 people were killed in a derailment in Andalusia.
In 2012, Renfe began converting 15 of its 2006-2009 era electric Talgo sets into dual-mode equipment by adding a diesel engine. This enabled the trains to operate beyond electrified territory. The first of the converted trained entered service in mid-2012 between Madrid and northwest Spain.A London Daily Mail report on the derailment suggests the engineer had a bit of the ballast-scorcher in him. Lots of pictures, and there's security-camera video of the train derailing that is not for the faint of heart. The employee timetable for the line is unambiguous that train crews must reduce speed to 80 km/h at kilometer post 84.2, with a further slack to 70 at post 85.0, which appears to be a junction.
Spare a moment's thought for the casualties of this wreck, and their families and friends.
North American crashworthiness standards are not inefficient per se.