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Humber Bridge's first project manager Ron Burns dies

Ron Burns, the first project manager on the Humber Bridge, died peacefully at home on 18 October.

A contractors man throughout his career he was said to have feared nobody while maintaining his principles and work ethic. In his early career he worked for many of the UK’s major contractors of the day and was involved in the three major suspension bridges built in the last fifty years, Port Rashid Dubai and the first Hong Kong tunnel. For over 20 years Burns had worked for CCC based in Athens.

He was probably unique in having gained his HNC in Sscotland he worked for nearly all the major contractors of the 1960s and 1970s including Cementation, John Howard (as first project manager on Humber Bridge), Costain (as senior engineeer responsible for all methods on quay construction on Port Rashid, Dubai and chief engineer on the first Hong Kong Tunnel), Laing in Saudi Arabia, and Taylor Woodrow in Ghana, before joining CCC in Athens where he was the eyes and ears of the owners on any problem projects throughout the group.

Port Rashid, Dubai in Aug 69 shortly before Ron left for the Hong Kong Tunnel. The  man on the left is Dave Chetwin (F) (bald head) (at the time Costain no2  later to be Project Director for the Costain Taylor Woodrow JV Dubai Dry Dock until 1979 - died 1911) - Ron Burns on the right. Behind is the Menck piling frame which  performed from 1969 to 1979 - a big investment at the time - c£35,000. In between the two guys the Manitowac 4600 ($150,000 new in 1968) can be seen placing rock on the original main breakwater. 

Readers' comments (1)

  • The tragedy of the Humber Bridge was the wrong choice of foundation for the River Pier. Howard's went for a caisson solution despite many having serious doubts, including the Client's Consultant, that sinking a caisson through such ground was too risky. Events proved them right as it was found very difficult and took far, far too long to sink the caisson - a major cause of the significant cost and time over-runs which delayed Client's income stream and resulted in an escalating cash flow problem which was never recovered despite high toll charges.

    A further problem was the Southern Anchorage - an infilled dead weight diaphragm wall cell structure as required because of a lack of shallow depth bedrock. Delays were incurred here due to diaphragm wall problems caused by excessive ground water pressure from the sea outside the levee relative to the platform level - the bentonite could sustain the trench walls. Howard's were advised this platform needed raising at Tender stage!

    I worked on the Tender for both the Pier and Anchorage works - a piled Pier foundation built off a sand island temporary caission, and a diaphragm walling off a raised platform for the Anchorage! The Tender was not successful!

    There was a public request from the Contractor for massive claims payments at the 1974 ICE Conference on Deep Basement Diaphragm Wall and Piling, which was equally publicly rejected by the Consultant. We competitors, in the audience, had a severe fit of Schadenfreude!

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