The “Watford Fellowship” 

An AREMA Educational Initiative For “Early Career” Individuals Involved With Railway Infrastructure Design

Congratulations to the 2020 Watford Fellow

Yifeng Mao
Honolulu Rapid Transit, of Dept. of Trans Services,
of City & County of Honolulu


The AREMA Educational Foundation in cooperation with the US Committee to the Watford Group of International Railway Designers has created a unique learning opportunity for aspiring railway employees to gain an international perspective of railroad and transit design and operations called the “Watford Fellowship.” The 2023 Fellowship grant will consist of a paid registration to the 2023 Watford Conference in Paris, France tentatively set for September 20-21, and will include presentations by the attendees on all aspects of railway planning; design, and construction with an emphasis on buildings, bridge and tunnel structures; rolling stock design; and graphics/corporate identity. There will be optional field trips and tours to railway infrastructure projects in the Paris region on September 19 and 22. The Watford Conference will occur concurrently with the UIC Stations Committee meeting and be held at the UIC Headquarters. The Watford Group has postponed the event in the United Kingdom until 2025 in order to participate in the celebration of the 200th anniversary of railroading in the UK. The application and certification document has not been revised to reflect this change of venue.

The program will be of keen interest to AREMA members in the Passenger/Transit, Structures, and Engineering Services Functional Groups. The Watford Group has a long-standing history with AREMA when members of Committee 6 were invited into the US committee in 1993. Today, any AREMA member can register to participate in the annual conference by contacting Watford’s US Chairperson Thomas Cornillie at

The Watford Group was created in 1963 by British Railways to encourage the exchange of ideas and promote design excellence among its operating regions; other countries were invited to join and subsequently, over twenty nations are now eligible to send delegates to the annual Watford Conference. The meetings mostly occur in Europe but have been held in Japan, Singapore, and the United States. The Watford Group is one of the very few global organizations that integrate all aspects of rail transportation under the umbrella of "good design is good business."

The goals of this initiative are twofold: to broaden the professional horizons of early career railroaders while enabling them to carry the AREMA brand internationally and, to add new members to the US Watford Committee that can carry on the tradition of Watford Conference participation and the educational benefits that accrue.  

The Watford Conference registration fee includes nearly all the meals during the conference, all local travel, and admission fees for conference activities. The Fellowship grant will reimburse four nights of hotel accommodation and incidental meals in the United Kingdom not covered by the registration fee. The only added cost to a North American would be trans-Atlantic air travel (could be done using airline rewards) and expenses before and after the conference. The total value of the grant may not exceed US$ 1500.  

To be eligible for a Watford Fellowship, the applicant must:

  1. Be a member in good standing of an AREMA Technical Committee;
  2. Have not less than three years nor more than 15 years of railway industry employment as of September 1, 2023;
  3. Have the written approval of his/her employer to attend the Watford Conference and participate in post-conference events organized by AREMA;
  4. Commit to paying all personal travel and transportation costs required that are not included in the Watford Fellowship grant;
  5. Commit to making at least one technical presentation at the Watford Conference on some aspect of railway design about a project executed by his/her employer or another railway company of which he/she has knowledge; and
  6. Commit to participating in an AREMA Webinar or Podcast derived from the materials obtained at the Watford Conference or make a presentation at a subsequent AREMA Conference or AREMA-sponsored event based upon information obtained or observed.
  7. In evaluating applications, preference will be given to direct employees of a regulated rail carrier, a public or private entity responsible for providing and/or sponsoring passenger rail service, or a consultant assigned full-time to a rail carrier or passenger entity.

Each applicant must complete the required application and certification form which can be downloaded from the AREMA Educational Foundation website. An important element is a “Vision Statement” that identifies the applicant’s current position responsibilities with respect to railway design and expresses a strong commitment to obtain and share knowledge with other AREMA members. Additional application materials include employment history and at least one 150-word abstract of a presentation to be made at the Watford Conference. Successful presentation proposals will discuss the results of specific, real-world applications, including successes, failures, and lessons learned. The AREMA selection panel will evaluate all submitted materials to identify an individual who in its opinion, best exemplifies the AREMA and Watford goals. The decision of the selection panel is final with no right to appeal.

The application deadline is May 22, 2023. The selectee will be announced by June 9, 2023.

An individual awarded a Watford Fellowship will be required to execute a Grant Agreement with the AREMA Educational Foundation and is solely responsible for personal tax liabilities, if any, incurred on the value of the grant. Authorized costs will be reimbursed using an AREMA expense report.

Application and Certification


To learn more about the Watford Fellowship check out our Season 2 Episode 11 Podcast  with Thomas Cornillie and James Michel.