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Poland Euro 2012 rail safety pledge

Poland's government has promised football fans that its rail travel is safe, despite the weekend train crash that killed 16 people.

The assurances come months before millions of fans will enter the country for the Euro 2012 tournament - many of whom will criss-cross the nation by train.

Saturday's crash, Poland's mostly deadly train accident in more than two decades, raised new questions about the safety of a state-run rail network, which has undergone modernisation in recent years. Poland still has a rail system marked by the legacy of the communist decades, but has been working to upgrade trains and tracks.

The trains collided head-on in a shower of sparks and mangled metal, killing 16 people and injuring dozens more near the southern town of Szczekociny, just north of Krakow. Both trains inexplicably ended up running on the same track.

Polish leaders said it was the worst rail tragedy since 16 people were killed in a 1990 collision near Warsaw.

Some routes today are notorious for being slower than they were even before the Second World War - and the economically dynamic young member of the European Union has been pushing to change this even as it builds skyscrapers, motorways and stadiums.

Several of the projects have been accelerated by the coming Euro 2012 championship, which starts in June.

Transport minister Slawomir Nowak insisted that train travel was safe and that the government made safety a priority as it improved the system. The collision happened on a stretch of track that was recently modernised, but officials said it was too early to speak about a cause.

"I really believe that the train system - not only in Poland but all of Europe - is still very safe," Mr Nowak said. He said those who planned to use the trains this summer during Euro 2012 should not worry.

Poland is co-hosting the three-week tournament with Ukraine and games will be held in several Polish and Ukrainian cities, which will force some fans to travel large distances - either by train, plane, bus or car.

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