Chronologically, the few noteworthy accidents that took place at speeds of 200 km/h (125 mph) and above were traced to the following causes:
- Track failure: on 21 December 1993, a French TGV derailed at over 290 km/h (180 mph) after a sink hole formed under the track. Deaths: 0.
- Equipment failure: on 3 June 1998, a German ICE derailed at 200 km/h (125 mph) after a wheel failure and struck a bridge, which collapsed onto the train. Deaths: 101. The Eschede disaster remains the world's deadliest high-speed rail accident.
- Equipment failure: on 5 June 2000, a Eurostar partially derailed at over 200 km/h (125 mph) after a piece of the train failed. Deaths: 0.
- Earthquake: on 23 October 2004, a Japanese Shinkansen derailed on an elevated structure after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck nearby. The derailment dynamics are neatly illustrated by a simulated animation. Deaths: 0.
- Track Intrusion: on 26 April 2008, a German ICE derailed in a tunnel after striking a stray flock of sheep. Deaths: 0. (not counting sheep.)
- Terrorist Bomb: on 27 November 2009, a Russian conventional (not bullet) train derailed at 200 km/h (125 mph) after a bomb was detonated on the tracks. Deaths: 26. Note, a 1983 TGV bombing failed to produce a derailment.
Preventing a derailment is always the first line of defense, but once it happens, there are design features that can mitigate the consequences. In all the zero-fatality high speed train accidents mentioned above, the train remained upright and was confined to the track area; those that 'escalated' by departing entirely from the track were deadly. Therefore, so-called Derailment Containment Provisions are an important passive safety feature, about which a study prepared for the Dutch HSL-Zuid project provides a good introductory overview. Such measures can include:
- Crash barriers and wheel guides that are integrated into the trackway, keeping derailed vehicles upright and moving along the track even when off the rails.
- Articulation - train cars that are semi-rigidly coupled together and cannot jackknife off the tracks.
- Guide blocks on the underside of trains that slide along the rails.