Eight level crossings in Melbourne’s north – split between the Upfield and Mernda lines – will be replaced with elevated rail designs as part of a $1 billion investment.

Three Coburg crossings at Bell, Reynard and Munro streets, and another in Brunswick at Moreland Road, will be removed. Next year, works will start on raising a section of track in Preston on the Mernda line to remove level crossings at Murray Road, Bell Street, Cramer Street and Oakover Road. The Preston works are due to be finished by 2021. Raising the Mernda line will also create more open space.

“Removing these four level crossings in Preston will make a huge improvement to people’s lives, said Member for Preston Robin Scott in a statement. “It will mean no more huge waits at peak hour and will unite East and West Preston as one suburb.”

The works will also include building new stations at Coburg, Moreland, Preston and Bell. Heritage-listed station buildings at Coburg and Moreland will be preserved.

The Andrews Government says elevating rail lines will take 18 months less than lowering them would. It also says around 15,000 vehicles per day travel through the eight crossings and that during the two-hour morning peak boom gates can be down for as much as 40 per cent of the time.

One person has died and two have been injured at the crossings since 2005. And there have been 50 near misses.

In Melbourne’s south two more level crossing removals – at Clyde Road, Berwick and Cardinia Road, Pakenham, both on the Pakenham line – will begin within a year.

More information can be found and submissions made at levelcrossings.vic.gov.au.