The rise in energy prices may result in long-lasting rise in costs of freight transports. Which effects do rising freight transport costs have for the development of urban systems? Such rise of transport costs in real terms has happened in Russia after price liberalisation in 1992. At the same time, the Russian official demographic statistics provides data that can be used to test hypotheses concerning the development of urban systems affected by rising transport costs. In the present study, these data are comprehensively evaluated. The theoretical background is provided by modelling of a linear shaped urban system in the framework of New Economic Geography. By means of this tool, analysis can be applied to spacious urban systems with large transport distances. For the first time, the underlying theoretical approach is explained in detail. The empirical results provide evidence for the outcomes of the theoretical model: In spacious countries or regions, respectively, whose urban systems are drawn-out on long lines, rising costs of freight transport are conducive to tendencies of concentration of population in large cities in the centre of the system, while peripheral regions are increasingly disconnected.