The current steel bridge maintenance strategy of the Austrian Federal Railways assumes a full replacement of the corrosion protection every 30 years. As two-thirds of the steel bridges within the Austrian Federal Railway Network have an approximate age of 70 years the development of a more targeted future coating strategy was aspired. The key issue of the presented investigation was the assessment of probable corrosion processes getting effective once the corrosion protection has lost its functional capability. The consequences of these processes in terms of remaining load bearing capacity and reliability of the primary, secondary and tertiary load bearing system and residual lifetime were analysed and evaluated for several reference steel bridges along a defined railway section. The major question to be answered was, whether this in-depth numerical simulation of effective corrosion processes would provide additional time frames for a more moderate long-term maintenance strategy (still complying with the relevant verifications) as an alternative to the current 30 year replacement period of the entire anticorrosive coating on existing bridges.