The driver of the train that crashed last week in Spain's deadliest railway accident in decades made his first court appearance, as authorities cite his possible negligence as the focus of their investigation.

Francisco Jose Garzon, 52, arrived at the courthouse for the closed hearing on Sunday after spending the night in the northwestern city's central police station.

The crash, Spain's worst since the 1940s, killed 79 and injured scores more [Reuters]

He has not been formally charged by a magistrate or made any official statements.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz told reporters on Saturday that Garzonwas detained on suspicion of reckless homicide over Spain's deadliest rail accident since 1944.

The judge will decide whether to press formal charges, court officials said.

The train was reported to have been travelling at more than twice the speed limit on a bend when it tore off the rails on Wednesday and slammed into a concrete wall.

The president of the Spanish rail network administrator ADIF, Gonzalo Ferre, said Garzon had been warned to start slowing the train "four kilometres before the accident happened".

A passenger who was critically injured in the crash died in hospital, health officials said on Sunday, bringing the toll to 79, including eight foreigners.

Flowers and candles were placed at the crash site and at the gates of the Santiago de Compostela’s cathedral, a year-round destination for Roman Catholic pilgrims.

A memorial service is scheduled to be held in Santiago de Compostela on Monday.

Source: Agencies