Thanks for your input, Mike. Hopefully the more of us who complain to GA the more likely it is that the problem will be resolved. I think they’re ignoring me now.
That said, I agree with your assessment that two travelcards aren’t necessary. I’d go further and suggest that a tube challenger should buy just a z1-6 travelcard and use contactless/Oyster for the zone 7-9 bits. This may also be cheaper than buying a z1-9 anytime travelcard.
In fact, I did just that on a successful challenge a couple of days ago. I bought a GA z1-6 anytime on their smartcard and started at Heathrow T4 with the intention of finishing at Amersham/Chesham. The smartcard worked fine all day and when I arrived at Moor Park on a Chesham train I had plenty of time to trek to the gateline and touch out with the smartcard before in again with Oyster. Had I left North Harrow on a Watford train I’d have switched to Oyster at North Harrow.
Having missed a quick reverse at Watford I then touched out there for a cost of £1.15 (senior railcard). Back in again for a touch out at Amersham 1h26 later, well within the 1h40 MJT allowed at that time of day, for a cost of £1.30.
£21.50 for the Anytime z1-6 travelcard plus £1.15 and £1.30 gives a total for the day of £23.95, £3.25 less than an Anytime z1-9 travelcard. That’s a very good price for visiting 272 stations and travelling who knows how many track miles. Perhaps I’ll calculate the cost per mile…
Even without a railcard the total cost for that particular usage is still £1.90 less than the travelcard. Of course, the exact cost will depend on the chosen route and where and when there’s time to switch to/from Oyster. Even if the z1-9 smartcard problems are sorted I encourage others to consider buying only a z1-6 and contactless/Oyster for the rest.
This has been an interesting and educational discussion. Thanks very much to Jonathan for asking the question and to all those who’ve contributed to the solution.
Good luck to all Tube Challengers.