Its report today found south eastern towns were closely and easily connected to London and so benefited from its economy.
By contrast, many nearby towns had poor connections to Manchester and Leeds and so were tackling regeneration in isolation from these cities’ growth.
It compared the relationship between London and Reading with that of Manchester and Burnley, and found only three per cent of Burnley’s workers commuted the 30kms to Manchester, against the 10% who travelled twice the distance, but three times more rapidly, from Reading to London.
It said the uneven overspill of economic growth from northern cities to their neighbours was “a product of the absence of such well-developed regional links”.
Centre director Dermot Finch said: “Large northern cities like Leeds and Greater Manchester are on the up, but poor commuter transport networks and weak trade links are stopping this newfound wealth from spilling over into neighbouring towns and cities.”
Northern Way director Andrew Lewis said: "We need to continue to create the conditions in which communities flourish in a new and very different economic environment, support northern cities and towns to build on their strengths, and invest in the infrastructure to support our future success.”