A north-south divide which denies people outside London and the South East job and home opportunities still exists, according to a report.
London grows but there is still a regional divide, says the report
The study says while the capital prospers other areas continue to suffer from poor transport and investment.
London is better connected to the rest of the world than the rest of England, the report states.
The study, called Connecting England, was commissioned by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA).
The report calls for rail improvements in the north of England and to connections with the south.
Airports such as Manchester should be expanded to help take pressure off the capital's Heathrow and Gatwick sites, it says.
Liverpool, Teesport and Hull were identified as ports which could be better used instead of Felixstowe and Southampton in the south.
The report highlights the situation in the South West where it says rising property prices and low incomes mean homes become unaffordable, and transport links are poor.
The report was produced by an independent commission appointed by the TCPA and chaired by former Guardian regional affairs editor Peter Hetherington.
He said: "England is not working to its full potential.
"Many in our workforce are denied the chance either to contribute to our economic prosperity or to benefit from it.
"We are neither pro-North nor anti-South, but are advocating a hard-hitting agenda for action across the country."
The study urges "joined-up" government action so economic success is shared across the country, and recommends authorities such as Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and West Midlands should be given similar powers over transport and development as the Greater London Authority.
The report recognises the regeneration of northern cities such as Leeds and Manchester but says the effects are not being felt far enough outside the centres.
Making sure benefits from the 2012 London Olympics are felt across the country is one of the main challenges over the coming years, says the study.