Yeh it’s been Network Rail for 17 years now. They own all the infrastructure (tracks, stations, bridges, tunnels, signaling, level crossings etc), signalers themselves are employed by Network Rail. They are also responsible for maintenance obviously. The TOCs (Train Operating Companies) then pay Network Rail to access the infrastructure to run a service. Network Rail then issue paths for each train, making sure there’s no conflict with other services. So when Network Rail say “we’re closing this bit for maintenance”, the only thing the TOCs can do is say “OK”. (London Overground North of New Cross Gate is a complicated exception to this and is under Rail For London/Cleshar responsibility on that side, but still signalled by Network Rail). For normal users, they just see a branded train going past, or branded stations so when SHTF service wise, or with too many closures, they place the blame on the wrong companies, as it’s the only ones they’re aware of day to day.
However, it is up each TOC to provide an alternative service if possible, such as Railway Replacement buses etc. Replacement buses between West Croydon/Palace and New Cross Gate are ALWAYS managed by Southern.
As John said, the workers have a posession of the line from 0100 Friday until 0400 Monday, there’s a lot of teams working on many different things, there’s track replacement, ballast and sleeper replacement, adjusting the trackbeds, drainage inspections, survey work, litter/graffiti clearance. There’s a massive section of line that’s being worked on, from up around South Bermondsey to Selhurst Depot. So there will be small teams waiting around for other items to be completed or just taking a break.
In terms of the Loco Driver being asleep, well, they have the worst job possible. That is their job, to drive the train. They move around to shunt wagons etc when they’re required, and only when. So they have nothing else to do apart from sit around for hours waiting for the next bit. There was a loco in the platform at New Cross Gate on Saturday when I went past, driver was there with feet up. Same guy was still there 7 hours later.
As John and JRW have said, the UK railway these days are incredibly safe thanks to the work that Network Rail do maintaining it. The Stonehaven incident was the first fatality due to a train accident in 12 years, and that was purely down to bad weather causing a landslip.
I know people have accused me of being defensive sometimes, but I just like to let people know the correct people/companies to blame and complain to, obviously not negating in any way the inconvenience it’s causing. After all, I do live in SE23 too