Project ID: 53930

China Development Bank provides $1.6 billion loan for Phase 1 of the Astana Light Rail Construction Project (Linked to Project ID#53932)

Commitment amount

$ 1795640911.3263237

Adjusted commitment amount

$ 1795640911.3263237

Constant 2021 USD

Not recommended for aggregates

This project is not recommended for use in creating aggregated sums. See the documentation for more information about this criteria.


Funding agency [Type]

China Development Bank (CDB) [State-owned Policy Bank]




Transport and storage (Code: 210)

Flow type


Level of public liability

Central government-guaranteed debt





Development (The next section lists the possible statuses.)





Financial Flow Classification

ODA-like (The next section lists the possible statuses.)

Official Development Assistance

Other Official Flows

Vague (Official Finance)

Flows categorized based on OECD-DAC guidelines

Project lifecycle


Suspended (The next section lists the possible statuses.)










Actual start


Planned complete



On May 7, 2015, China Railway International Group Co., Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of China Railway, and Beijing State-Owned Assets Management Co., Ltd. signed an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract with Astana LRT LLP (ТОО «Астана LRT») for Phase 1 of the Astana Light Rail Construction Project. Then, on August 31, 2015, China Development Bank (CDB) signed a $1.6 billion loan agreement [ID# 6510201501100000000] with Astana LRT LLP for the project. The loan carried the following borrowing terms: a maturity period of 20 years, a grace period of 3 years, an interest rate of LIBOR + a 2.5% margin, and a commitment fee of 0.3%. The Government of Kazakhstan issued a sovereign guarantee in support of the loan. The borrower was to use the proceeds of the loan to partially finance the EPC contract with it signed with China Railway International Group Co., Ltd. on May 7, 2015. The loan achieved a disbursement rate of at least 25.7% ($412,506,989 out of $1,600,000,000). Astana LRT LLP, a project company (special purpose vehicle) owned by the City of Astana, was established on April 26, 2011 for the purpose of building a light rail system in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The Government of Kazakhstan and the City of Astana had previously attempted to construct light rail in the city that year; a consortium of companies led by Alstom were awarded a turnkey contract and the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev laid the foundation stone on July 4, 2011. The project was scheduled to be completed in December 2013. However, it was shelved due to high costs, only to be revived by the participation of Chinese companies. The project involved the construction of a 22.4 km light rail system with 18 stations that run from Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport to the Astana Nurly Zhol railway station. The light rail was to connect Nazarbayev University, Abu Dhabi Plaza, and House of Ministries. The rolling stock of 19 light rail vehicles (LRVs) were to be supplied by a Chinese company. The LRVs were to be 31.5 meters long and able to travel at an average speed of 40 km/hr. The estimated average daily ridership of Phase I was 150,000 passengers. The light rail was intended to handle the traffic problems of Astana with comfortable and safe public transit. The project was estimated to cost $1.8 billion in total. China Railway Asia-Europe Construction Investment Co., Ltd. was part of the implementation consortium, alongside Beijing State-Owned Assets Management Co., Ltd., China Railway No.2 Engineering Group Co., Ltd. SYSTRA was the project management consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited was the legal consultant, and Bureau Veritas provided technical supervision services. China Construction Sixth Engineering Bureau Co., Ltd., China Railway No. 2 Group Co., Ltd., and Beijing Urban Construction Group Co., Ltd. were also assigned responsible for constructing different sections of the railway. When the EPC contract was signed in May 2015, the project was expected to be completed before the Astana Expo, which was scheduled to run from June 10, 2017 to September 10, 2017. However, the project fell behind schedule due to financial issues. Construction began on May 22, 2017. At that time, construction of the light rail system was expected to be completed by December 31, 2019, with rides on the light rail set to begin in summer 2020. However, as of July 2018, the project had only achieved a 23% completion rate and it had encountered many problems and delays. Astana LRT LLP deposited the proceeds from the first tranche of the CDB loan in an account with the Bank of Astana. However, these funds were not disbursed for use in the Astana Light Rail Construction Project. Then, less than a month before the National Bank of Kazakhstan (Kazakhstan's central bank) revoked the Bank of Astana's license in September 2018, liability for the deposit was transferred to Kazakhstan's Ministry of Finance's Problem Loan Fund. CDB halted funding for the project in October 2018, and the mayor's office in Astana explained that "one factor" in CDB's decision to halt lending was that $258 million of the $313 million it had disbursed had not been spent on the project. The Government of Kazakhstan pledged to repay CDB, but as of February 2019, the Ministry of Finance's Problem Loan Fund had only released KZT 3.3 billion ($8.6 million) to Astana LRT LLP to pay Chinese contractors. In the spring of 2019, project construction was put on hold as the City of Astana and CDB could not agree on the terms of the next loan tranche. Then, in October 2019, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered a thorough anti-corruption investigation into former senior officials who initiated the Astana Light Rail Construction Project. These officials included former mayors of the City of Astana and the former chief executive of Astana LRT LLP, who fled Kazakhstan and was under investigation for potential embezzlement of project funds. As for the project itself, Tokayev called it "economically incomprehensible" and stated that "I do not understand how it could have been launched." However, because the costs of backing out of the project were severe, Kazakhstan decided to continue with the project, but with an alternative source of financing. The Astana Light Rail Construction Project is now being financed by domestic bonds; bonds worth $344 million were to be used to repay the loan from CDB. In July 2018, Kazakhstan's Ministry for Development and Investments announced plans to allocate $47.2 million for the Astana Light Rail Project. Rather than cancelling the loan to Astana LRT LLP altogether, CDB reduced its face value to approximately $344 million and revised the borrowing terms such that the maturity was reset to 5 years and the interest rate was reset to 3%. The revised railway design is now planned to have only 11 stops. In September 2019, Kazakhstan repaid $344 million of principal and accrued interest off early via the bonds. However, the project remains incomplete. As of October 2021, Nikkei Asia reported that the project had “been put on ice, and the incomplete bridge piers have been lampooned by locals as ‘monuments of corruption.’

Additional details

1. This project, which is also known as the Nur-Sultan Light Metro project (reflecting Astana's new name, Nur-Sultan, as of March 2019), is linked to Project ID#53932. which captures agreements signed between China and Kazakhstan, including this CDB loan. 2. The Chinese project title is 哈萨克斯坦阿斯塔纳轻轨项目. The Russian project title is Строительство системы LRT в городе Астана. 3. The end_planned field was coded as June 9, 2017 because it was the last day before the Astana Expo. 4. AidData has estimated the all-in interest rate by adding 2.5% to the average 6-month LIBOR rate in August 2015 (0.519%). 5. On July 26, 2020, Astana LRT LLP rebranded itself as City Transportation Systems LLP. 6. The financial statements of City Transportation Systems LLP (for the year ending on December 31, 2019) can be accessed in their entirety via They state that the $1.6 billion CDB loan was repaid in 2019. 6. Some sources identify the loan identification number as 6510201501100000588 rather than 6510201501100000000.

Number of official sources


Number of total sources


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Direct receiving agencies [Type]

Astana LRT LLP [Joint Venture/Special Purpose Vehicle]

Implementing agencies [Type]

China Railway International Group Co., Ltd. (CRIG) [State-owned Company]

Beijing State-Owned Assets Management Co., Ltd. (BSAM) [Government Agency]

China Railway No. 2 Group Co., Ltd. [State-owned Company]

Beijing Urban Construction Group Co., Ltd. [State-owned Company]

China Construction Sixth Engineering Bureau Co., Ltd. (中国建筑第六工程局有限公司) [State-owned Company]

PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited (PwC) [Private Sector]

China Railway Asia-Europe Construction Investment Co., Ltd. [State-owned Company]

SYSTRA [Private Sector]

Bureau Veritas [Private Sector]

Astana LRT LLP [Joint Venture/Special Purpose Vehicle]

Guarantee provider [Type]

Government of Kazakhstan [Government Agency]

Loan Details


20 years

Interest rate


Grace period

3 years

Grant element (OECD Grant-Equiv)


Bilateral loan

Investment project loan